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Grocery chain tries to claim copyright in ABC video footage

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Grocery chain tries to claim copyright in ABC video footage09/11/95 NORTH CAROLINA--Grocery store chain Food Lion, Inc. filed suit against…

Grocery chain tries to claim copyright in ABC video footage


NORTH CAROLINA–Grocery store chain Food Lion, Inc. filed suit against Capital Cities/ABC in mid-July seeking copyright ownership of videotapes made by ABC News reporters while investigating the chain. The suit, filed in federal District Court in Winston-Salem, also seeks $100 million in damages.

Food Lion argued that because the reporters made the tapes on company property after fraudulently gaining employment by Food Lion, the tapes are property of the chain.

The 50 hours of tapes were made in 1992 by two reporters for ABC’s PrimeTime Live, who went to work for Food Lion to investigate claims that the chain used unsanitary practices in its meat department. The reporters used hidden cameras to videotape other meat department employees.

Footage broadcast on a November 1992 edition of PrimeTime Live appeared to show employees soaking fish in a bleaching solution to kill its odor, covering old meat with barbecue sauce and rewrapping products on which the sell-by dates had expired.

The chain’s suit followed an attempt by ABC to limit access to the videotapes, which it said it had erroneously filed with the U.S. Copyright Office. The network sought a protective order to keep the grocery chain from viewing those copies of the tapes. ABC said it had already turned over all relevant portions of the tapes to Food Lion.

Food Lion sought access to the tapes in connection with its 1994 suit against ABC, also filed in federal District Court in Winston- Salem, which claimed that the network violated federal racketeering laws when the reporters fraudulently gained employment and made the tapes. The court last March ruled that Food Lion could not recover damages for injury to its reputation because it failed to prove ABC had falsely and maliciously defamed the company.

In July, Food Lion also filed a racketeering and antitrust suit against a union trying to organize the chain’s employees and a public relations company representing the union. Food Lion alleged that the two organizations conspired to force the chain out of business and helped facilitate the ABC report. (Food Lion, Inc. v. Capital Cities/ABC; Media Counsel: Randall Turk, Washington)