1. Was it illegal under the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 for American citizens and residents in the United States and American media to access, use, re-post and rebroadcast in the United States U.S. government-funded news programs for foreign audiences?

No, it was not illegal under the old law. Most programs produced by the Voice of America (VOA), which is part of the federal agency, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), was always in the public domain since most of these programs were produced by federal government employees and paid for by American taxpayers.

Some of the VOA content may contain third-party copyright material for which separate use and rebroadcast rights would have to be obtained.

Individuals and media would have to obtain these programs on their own from the Internet, satellite or other sources before being able to use them.

2. Were U.S. government officials in the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) permitted to disseminate U.S. government-funded programs in the United States under the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948?

No. Government officials were generally prohibited by the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and later revisions from disseminating such programs domestically.

3. Could Americans and American media use and rebroadcast U.S. government-funded news programs prior to the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012?

Yes, if they obtained them on their own, for example from the Internet, shortwave transmissions or satellite and they used these programs without violating any third-party copyrights.

4. Could Americans and American media use materials from 501(c)3 private media entities, such as Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) which receive 100% of their funding from the BBG and ultimately U.S. taxpayers?

No. these semi-private entities have claimed copyright to their material before and now.

5. Do Americans or American media need authorization from the Voice of America to use its programs if such programs are already in the public domain.


6. Is it legal for U.S. government officials to actively market their news programs to individuals, media and other institutions in the United States?

Apparently not. But U.S. government officials are collecting information on stations that may be interested and they may offer such programs if they call these stations about other matters. This is how government officials can get around the law.

7. Are Voice of America programs free of government propaganda?

Under the 1976 VOA Charter, which Voice of America news must be accurate, balanced and comprehensive. They must also reflect the policies of the United States government. VOA journalists do not engage in propaganda, but officials in charge of VOA broadcasts have a lot of influence over which news stories are covered and how they are covered. Although attempts at interference with VOA news from the State Department or the White House have largely ceased after the VOA Charter was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1975 and signed by President Ford, there have been attempts since then by higher-level VOA officials to interfere with news coverage.

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