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BC cries foul after footage is used in video by Paul Ryan

House Speaker Paul Ryan.
House Speaker Paul Ryan. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

House Speaker Paul Ryan may need to put his plans for fixing the tax code aside, and instead brush up on his copyright law.

Boston College officials said this week that Ryan apparently purloined a snippet of footage shot by a college employee during a graduation ceremony, using it in his own promotional video released last week without getting the school’s permission.

On April 18, eight days before President Trump released his tax overhaul proposal, Ryan shared on Twitter a one-minute video about his own thoughts for simplifying the US tax code.

In the video, titled “Imagine A Tax Form That Is the Size of a Postcard,” Ryan is seen sitting in an office, holding a small piece of paper, as violins can be heard playing in the background.


While staring into the camera, Ryan says, “Imagine, for a moment, if you could file your taxes on a form the size of a postcard. Wouldn’t that be something?”

The camera then cuts to footage of thick legal books; a person using a calculator; and a seemingly dumbstruck young couple trying to grapple with their taxes.

Suddenly, as Ryan continues to talk about how current tax provisions can be confusing for families trying to put a student through college, the tops of hundreds of black graduation caps appear on the screen.

The camera angle changes again, and the same graduates are seen standing in front of a familiar building. Turns out, those are Boston College students. And that building? It’s the iconic Gasson Hall.

“Speaker Ryan’s video contains commencement footage from a Boston College video that was produced by our senior creative producer, Sean Casey,” said Jack Dunn, a spokesman for the college. “The use of the video footage was not authorized by Boston College.”


Casey, who works in the office of university communications, pointed out Ryan’s use of the video on Twitter Wednesday. It was later reported by The Heights, the student newspaper.

“This video includes footage from one of my videos for BC,” Casey wrote. “The Speaker did not receive permission to use. [...] Shame.... Shame.... Shame...”

Casey told a Globe reporter on Twitter that if someone from the speaker’s office had reached out to use the eight-second clip, he would have known about it.

When someone responded to Casey’s complaint online, agreeing that Ryan’s use of the video was “very bad,” the person asked Casey if he had sent a takedown notice to Ryan’s office.

Casey replied, “Oh, you better believe it.”

Dunn, the school spokesman, confirmed that BC has reached out to Ryan, but has yet to hear back.

“We are attempting to inform the speaker’s office that his tax video contains footage of Boston College’s commencement that was used without authorization,” Dunn said.

As of late Friday afternoon, it was still online. Ryan’s office did not immediately return a Globe request for comment.

Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.