Court sends copyright case over Denny beating tape back for trial
CALIFORNIA–The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco (9th Cir.) ruled in early March that a jury should decide if a Los Angeles television station’s use of video of the 1992 Reginald Denny beating was a violation of copyright law.
Los Angeles News Service, an independent news agency which provides news to stations for a fee, claimed KCAL-TV violated its copyright when the station televised a portion of the Denny videotape without payment and without crediting the news service. Although KCAL had tried to buy the tape for their news broadcast, they were turned down due to a poor credit history with the service, according to the news service’s lawyer.
KCAL-TV said that the broadcast was protected under the First Amendment, and that airing 30 seconds of the 4-minute, 40-second tape was a “fair use” — an allowable use under copyright law of a portion of a copyrighted work — due to the “unique” nature of the event and the fact that it was aired for news purposes.
In June 1994, the federal District Court in Los Angeles had dismissed the case, finding that the station’s broadcast was a fair use. The appeals court, however, found that the trial court should have considered factors such as: the fact that the use was business- related, and not for educational purposes; the history of KCAL’s attempts to purchase the tape, indicating a knowledge that a free use would not be proper; and the chance that the market for reselling the tape could be damaged by the station’s use. The news service argued in its appeal that it had lost at least one sale as a result of KCAL’s broadcast. (Los Angeles News Service v. KCAL-TV Channel 9; Plaintiff’s Counsel: William Bergen, Reseda; Station’s Counsel: Jeffrey Valle, Los Angeles)