Witness testifies about copyright questions in Ellis hearing

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A representative of a company that helps schools and other groups obtain copyright permissions testified on Tuesday that Calvin Ellis called him in late September about a copyright problem he was having.
Mark Greenburg of Tresona Multimedia was one of two witnesses who testified on the second day of Ellis’ hearing, an appeal of his Oct. 28 dismissal as Tupelo High School choral director. That hearing resumes today at 9 a.m. at the Hancock Leadership Center.
Greenburg said Ellis told him that he needed to get copyright permission for the songs in the Wave Connection show choir’s October performance, which already had been arranged and choreographed.
Greenburg, whose company serves as a bridge between publishers and those seeking to receive copyright permissions, said he told Ellis that he would try to get the rights Ellis needed but warned him that it would be difficult in a short period of time.
In the meantime, Greenburg recommended that Ellis develop a backup plan, and he sent Ellis a list of more than 3,200 pre-cleared songs, whose rights could be quickly obtained, as possible replacements.
Greenburg said that Ellis asked him in an email what the penalty would be if his show choir performed a song without gaining copyright permission. Greenburg said that this question concerned him and that he warned Ellis that it would be a felony and was something he should not do. Ellis eventually canceled that October show when he could not get the needed rights.
Greenburg, who was issued a subpoena by the school district’s attorneys, testified via online video from Phoenix. Shortly before that, Tupelo Interim Superintendent David Meadows completed his testimony, after spending about 10 hours on the stand over the hearing’s first two days.
Ellis’ attorney, David Butts, asked Meadows about two meetings he had with Ellis between the time Ellis was placed on administrative leave on Oct. 6 and when he was fired. Butts asked Meadows whether the superintendent had ever asked Ellis directly about the copyright charges, or any of the district’s other charges, at any time prior to Ellis’ dismissal.
Meadows said he had not but Ellis was free to talk to him about them at any time. Butts said Ellis did not know what charges he was facing at that time.
Butts also asked Meadows several questions about the fact that Ellis’ supplement and job description didn’t explicitly outline the duties covered by his supplement.
One of the charges against Ellis is that he was paid by the booster club for duties that were also covered by his supplement.
Meadows said the job description also requires duties assigned by the superintendent or designee.

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