Pub Def (short for “Public Defender”) is an online destination for video reports from St. Louis and the state of Missouri published by Anotonio D. French, a newspaper reporter who was frustrated with local news coverage. The video blog has generated hundreds of reports on everything from Gov. Matt Blunt’s re-election campaign to interviews with state representatives. It has also won repeated mentions in the local press; it’s even been quoted by NBC’s Meet the Press.
Yesterday evening, French received a notification that local station KSDK Channel 5, an NBC affiliate, had asked YouTube to remove a video clip posted to the site by Pub Def that contained footage of KSDK newscasts. He immediately went to the site, only to discover that the video had already been removed. A few hours later, another email notice arrived. French then found that his entire account — including 500 clips — had been completely deleted. “As much as 95 percent of those videos are original,” French told me over the phone.
French argued that the use of the clips — less than sixty seconds from two different newscasts, edited to include titles commenting on the station’s reporting — was clearly fair use. He pointed to past Pub Def footage used by Fox News to argue that this is standard operating procedure in broadcast journalism. “We think we’re ideal YouTube users,” French said of the site. “We work our butts off here; we don’t get any money, it’s completely free.”
Mike Shipley, the news director at KSDK, confirmed that the station had issued the takedown notice, but disagreed that French’s clip was clearly fair use. “It’s not my understanding that fair use allows for you to take the piece in its entirety and reuse it for your own purposes,” Shipley argued over the phone, continuing:
He never approached us about the material at all. If he had excerpted something and edited all on his own and put together his own presentation about it, that would be one thing. But to simply pirate the video from our site and use it without our permission is copyright infringement.
French said that what troubles him is that in the course of a few hours he can go from providing a public service using YouTube’s platform to being completely removed from the site. “When you look at the top viewed videos on YouTube, it’s like, 50 percent copyrighted material,” French pointed out.
YouTube’s takedown notification reads: “Repeat incidents of copyright infringement will result in the deletion of your account and all videos uploaded to that account.” A takedown notice isn’t decisive evidence of infringement by any means, but it appears that two such requests issued to YouTube in a short period automatically qualify one for account deletion.
In the meantime, French has uploaded the clip to his own server, where KSDK will have to ask his ISP to remove the footage. He has also issued a counter-notification letter to YouTube to have his account restored — thereby assuming any liability if KSDK chooses to press the issue and a court finds that the clip in question does amount to infringement.
How the citizens of Missouri are being served by this fight between local press outlets remains to be seen.
Thanks to Bill Streeter for the tip.