DCMA Helps San Francisco TV Station Remove Embarrassing Flub from the Internet

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) exempts certain online service providers from liability for copyright infringing acts by its users provided that certain conditions are satisfied. It is also a powerful tool to remove infringing content from the Internet. Online service providers must remove user-generated content at the content owners request or face significant monetary penalties.

Earlier this year, a San Francisco television station used DCMA takedown notices for a unique reason — to remove embarrassing footage from the Internet. Shortly after the crash of Asiana flight 214, a KTVU anchor read fake (and racially insensitive) names of the pilots involved in the crash on the air. An intern with the National Transportation Safety Board erroneously confirmed the names to the station.

In this case, the television station is relying on copyright law to serve double duty. After publicly apologizing for the gaff, KTVU vowed to remove the online versions of the broadcast.  “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,” said the station’s general manager and vice president, Tom Raponi.

YouTube videos of the news broadcast now state: “This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by KTVU.”

As this case highlights, IP protections can provide a range of benefits.

If you need any help with Intellectual Property issues, from filing a patent, trademark or copyright, or just need advice regarding how best to protect your inventions, ideas or your brand, please contact me at 1-855-UR IDEAS (1-855-874-3327). Stay up-to-date on the latest Intellectual Property Law news from Sheldon Mak & Anderson.

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