NEW YORK, March 8 (Reuters Legal) - A video company has sued the Associated Press over the copyright to widely viewed footage of a suspect in the 2008 bombing of a military recruiting booth in New York’s Times Square.
Ken Petretti Productions uses video cameras to monitor billboard advertising for its clients. The company’s lawsuit, filed on Monday in federal court in New York, said the Associated Press wrongfully shared video captured by Petretti cameras of a man riding a bicycle through Times Square shortly before a bomb exploded in the early hours of March 6, 2008.
Petretti Productions said it provided the video to the New York Police Department for investigative purposes. Soon afterwards, the Associated Press relayed it to its media clients, which aired it repeatedly. Petretti is seeking at least $150,000 in damages for what it says was a “concerted scheme” to violate its copyright in the security tapes and to steal hot news.
A spokesperson for AP said the organization had not yet had a chance to review the complaint.
The lawsuit is similar to disputes over other famous events, such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and the beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles in 1991. In both cases, courts found that fortuitous images of the historic news events were free for all to use. Such footage is likely to become more common in an era of cell phone cameras and widespread use of security video.
The AP has a strong argument in favor of its use of the footage based on the First Amendment and copyright’s fair use doctrine, said Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard law professor and copyright expert.
It is also questionable whether video monitoring is original enough to qualify for protection, said James Boyle, who teaches intellectual property at Duke Law School. “I would say that the fair use claim could go either way, but I would lean towards fair use because it’s a tiny part of an uncreative video that happened to attract national attention.”
No one was hurt in the 2008 bombing, and no suspect has been apprehended. (Reporting by Jeff Roberts of Reuters Legal; Editing by Amy Singer) (This article first appeared on Westlaw News & Insight, www.westlawnews.com)