Sunday, 24 February 2013

New Sports Illustrated Column: When spectators flee a race crash, is video of it news or copyright protected sports event?

Many spectators were hurt in yesterday's Daytona race because of a collision. A high school sophomore took a video of the crash and fans screaming and trying to get help. NASCAR wanted the video taken off YouTube, which for a while removed it but then put it back up.

Do we have a legal right to see this video? I explore in a new column for Sports Illustrated | Here's an excerpt:
But only about 12 seconds of Anderson's 1 minute, 16 video is actually of a NASCAR race; the rest centers on the crash and fans scrambling for cover from flying debris. NASCAR's ownership over this latter part of the video is questionable, since "facts" and "news" are not subject to copyright protection and the First Amendment safeguards public access to them. The NBA knows this quite well. Back in 1997, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the NBA could not claim copyright in its stats and scores, which Motorola had broadcast through a wireless paging device known as SportsTrax. The reasoning? Facts and news are not copyright protected. 

It could be argued that at about 13 seconds into Anderson's video, the race transformed from a copyright-protected NASCAR event into a not-copyright-protected news event. Fans screaming and fleeing for cover is not part of any race, but is certainly newsworthy. On the other hand, NASCAR might contend that because crashes are (unfortunately) not uncommon in NASCAR races, a crash should be considered a continuation of a copyright-protected NASCAR event. This is a difficult area of law and highlights how legal protection for "sports events" and "news events" may not always be the same.

To read the rest of the column, click here.  Here's the video:

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