Boycott Watch  
November 25, 2010
Who Owns The Rights To President Obama's Book?
Summary:Courts have already ruled all Presidential documents are the property of the people. Legal battles are sure to come.
    President Obama released a children's book November 16, 2010 titled "Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters" which was published by Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Reader's. The 40 page book is intended for readers of 4-8 years old, and President Obama said the book was written before he came to office. If that were true, why would he wait until more than two years into his term to release the book?

   Knowing how the publishing world works, Boycott Watch believes the book must have been worked on while President Obama was serving in office. That is significant in terms of who owns the rights to it.

   U.S. Courts have long determined any work by a sitting President is property of the U.S. Government. All emails of the President, for example, must be preserved as both historical record and U.S. government property. While a President may remove an email from his desktop, they cannot be erased and there have been legal cases about deleted emails. Before that there was a major case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a sitting President cannot keep audio recordings he made in the White House, even if the content had nothing do to with government work, private. That was the Watergate case where President Nixon was ordered to hand over recordings of conversations which dealt with party politics. The fact is, all documents produced by the government, except classified documents, are public domain.

   Presidents have a unique standing within the United States government. They are not only on-duty 24 hours a day every day, but is the only person who has no replacement, proxy, and when incapacitated for any reason, must have an official in place sworn in to office. In one such case, President G.W. Bush had Vice President Cheney sworn in for a two-hour surgery. There simply is no time a President is off duty, thus anything a President does is on official time. Any and all work President Obama performed on his book therefore, makes his work public domain.

   Boycott Watch therefore believes President Obama's copyright to his book is invalid and the publishing company has no more of a claim to publishing rights than anyone who wants to reproduce and publish any other government document.

   In order to avoid conflicts of interest, lawmakers routinely put their investments into blind trusts, thus allowing them to profit, but not have any clue as to their actual investment status. By agreeing to a publishing contract while in office, even for a children's book, President Obama has engaged in a business deal which puts him in a position to have a conflict of interest. President Obama therefore may not be able to sign bills into law pertaining to any publishing businesses since that may evoke a conflict of interest. In fact, any bill presented to President Obama for signature affecting the publishing world may force him to resign, Promoting Vice President Biden to the Presidency since he can accept or reject such legislation.

   Additionally, the proceeds of the book inherently belong to American people since it is a public domain work and income from the publishing contract came from work performed by a sitting government official. That revenue cannot be appropriated to charities since Presidents do not have the power to allocate funds without Congress.

   While President Obama may have had good intentions with his book, the fact is he put himself and the Presidency in a potential legal quagmire.

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