SBD/February 25, 2013/Media

Was NASCAR Fair In Asking Fan To Take Down YouTube Crash Video?

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A fan video of the wreck at the NASCAR Nationwide Series Drive4COPD on Saturday was “uploaded almost immediately to YouTube,” but just as quickly, "the video was taken down from YouTube at NASCAR’s request, citing copyright concerns,” according to Mike Isaac of ALL THINGS DIGITAL. The move is “odd … considering a quick YouTube search for Daytona Crash 2013 returns a host of videos from the event, yet to be pulled.” NASCAR Senior VP & CMO Steve Phelps in a statement said, “The fan video of the wreck on the final lap of today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race was blocked on YouTube out of respect for those injured in today’s accident.” Isaac wrote either NASCAR is “indeed concerned with the well-being of the injured, or NASCAR is trying to avoid a major PR headache by stifling the viral video of the brutal injuries its fans suffered.” Not more than “a few hours later, the video in question [had] been unblocked, and is now viewable” on spectator Tyler Anderson’s YouTube page (ALLTHINGSD.com, 2/23). In Charlotte, Arriero & Off in a front-page piece cite communications experts as saying that NASCAR’s move “exacerbated an already unfavorable public relations incident.” Charlotte-based social media firm Spiracle Media co-Founder Bill Voth said, “When your company is as big as NASCAR, it’s hard to control that image when stuff like that gets out. They might have learned a tough lesson that the genie is just not going back in the bottle.” Voth said that NASCAR’s censorship attempt is “ironic, given that the organization has gained a reputation for being forward thinking when it comes to social media.” Oklahoma State Univ. media law professor Joey Senat said that NASCAR’s effort “probably raised suspicions among fans that NASCAR could have somehow been at fault for the incident.” He said, “Maybe this raises questions about the fencing. Maybe they don’t want you to see what actually happened” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 2/25).

FAIR GAME? SI.com’s Michael McCann noted by attending a NASCAR race, a spectator “consents that NASCAR owns the intellectual property of the race,” meaning the spectator “cannot record or broadcast his/her own video.” If a spectator “does so, the spectator has breached the ticket's limited license and can be sued for copyright infringement and breach of contract.” Any video-sharing company, like YouTube, that “transmits the video can also be sued for copyright infringement.” But only about “12 seconds of Anderson's 1 minute, 16 video is actually of a NASCAR race; the rest centers on the crash and fans scrambling for cover from flying debris.” It could be argued that “at about 13 seconds into Anderson's video, the race transformed from a copyright-protected NASCAR event into a not-copyright-protected news event.” Even if Anderson's video “is subject to copyright protection, it's not clear that NASCAR would own that copyright” (SI.com, 2/24).
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