Tuesday, September 17, 2002
Ninth Circuit Reinstates Copyright Suit Over Video of Denny Beating
From Staff and Wire Service Reports
A copyright infringement suit over the video footage of truck driver Reginald Denny being beaten a decade ago during the Los Angeles riots was reinstated yesterday by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled a copy of the tape turned over by a television station was not hearsay and could be admitted into evidence.
At issue is the April 1992 by helicopter pilot Robert Tur and his wife, Marika Tur, of Denny being pulled from a truck and a brick thrown at his head by rioters. The footage came to symbolize the Los Angeles riots and was broadcast repeatedly.
The Ninth Circuit ruled that the Turs’ company, Los Angeles News Service, which copyrighted the footage, may sue CBS Broadcasting Inc. on allegations of copyright violation. The case originally was suspended as the parties tried to settle, but was resubmitted in 1999 when negotiations failed.
Before shelving the case the parties stipulated to not pursuing discovery. But when Tur heard that a CBS affiliate had obtained a copy of the tape, called “The Beating of Reginald Denny,” from a network distributor and was showing it, he called the station’s archivist and asked for a copy of the tape that came from Group W Newsfeed.
He got back a tape that included a notation that it had been obtained from Group W, which was associated with CBS.
CBS won summary judgment in the District Court, arguing that Tur’s action violated the discovery ban.
But the Ninth Circuit said Tur was simply doing his own research, and that it was not covered by the stipulation.
The merits of the case must be brought to trial. The appeals court’s decision overturns a federal judge, who had dismissed the case.
H. Jay Ford III, the news service’s attorney, said the decision was a victory for independent newsgathering operations.
“If they no longer have the ability to make money off the footage they gather, than who’s going to gather the footage?” Ford asked. Los Angeles News Service, he said, is seeking millions.
CBS attorney Frederick Mumm, who also defended Courtroom Television Network in the case, did not have an immediate comment.
The court also dismissed Los Angeles News Service’s suit against Courtroom Television Network. The service claimed the network, known as Court TV, violated the same copyright laws by using the footage in the opening montage of one of its regular programs.
The court, however, said the station had a “fair use” right to a tiny portion of the service’s tape without permission because Court TV’s purpose with the footage was to advertise the cable channel’s trial coverage of Denny’s attackers.
The Ninth Circuit said Court TV’s use of the footage did not “significantly affect” the market for licenses to the footage and that Court TV transformed the work from breaking news coverage to trial reporting.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company