DMCA Abusers Go After Media Clips on Asiana Pilots, Senator Warren

by Benjy Cannon on July 23, 2013

Media outlets became the latest addition to the ranks of DMCA abusers, issuing claims in two recent cases to suppress their own potentially embarrassing news material.  DisCo has previously covered examples of DMCA abuse [1] [2], including Rob’s post just last week, pointing to HBO’s targeting of VLC.

In one of the latest incidents, a San Francisco television station is seeking to suppress one particularly unfortunate segment involving the names of the pilots in the Asiana Airlines crash:

Some of the YouTube videos, uploaded from last week’s newscast, leave behind a message: “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by KTVU.”

While many of the videos of the segment were still live on Google-owned YouTube, the reason why the Fox affiliate has been demanding their removal doesn’t concern copyright.

“The accidental mistake we made was insensitive and offensive. By now, most people have seen it. At this point, continuing to show the video is also insensitive and offensive, especially to the many in our Asian community who were offended. Consistent with our apology, we are carrying through on our responsibility to minimize the thoughtless repetition of the video by others,” the station’s general manager and vice president, Tom Raponi, told Mediabistro today.

For obvious reasons, not everyone believes Raponi. FTV live, a TV gossip site, called the request a “gutless move by a station trying to cover up their mistake. You can also bet if the video was one of their Reporter’s [sic] doing something extraordinary, the video would still be online. Of all the mistakes KTVU made on this story, trying to cover it up is one of the worst.”

Unfortunately, KTVU is not alone in using regulatory structures to suppress content they find undesirable. Elizabeth Warren’s articulate rebuttal of some CNBC anchors went viral last week, prompting CNBC to issue a takedown request of the clip on Warren’s channel:

A viral clip of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) ripping into the hosts of CNBC’s “Squawk Box” has been removed from the senator’s YouTube channel.

According to a message on YouTube, NBC Universal requested that the video be taken down on copyright grounds.

CNBC responded:

We think that the clip featuring Senator Warren is well worth watching and, as you will see below, it has been available to view in multiple locations on CNBC.com since its original posting. The original, copyrighted video clip, like all others on CNBC.com, can be embedded on any third party site through our video player. Here is that link: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?play=1&video=3000182337

The Daily Kos noted that although the interview is available online in full, CNBC’s website does not support mobile devices and many tablets. Either way, attempting to use takedown requests as a form of brand or crisis management is a dangerous misuse of the DMCA. While the age of viral video undoubtedly makes major media errors more visible, companies shouldn’t resort to regulation to remove content they’re not proud of.

Benjy Cannon is an intern at the Computer & Communications Industry Association. 

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