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The Digital Millennium Copyright Act – Not Just for Protecting Intellectual Property?

No one would disagree that plane crashes are a terrible and inescapable fact of life in today’s ever increasing busy and mobile society. Another arguably terrible side effect to today’s bustling, need it now mindset are the 24-hour news networks – and when a plane does go down, these networks are climbing all over each other for the story, each looking to obtain the scoop on the others. It is this type of cutthroat reporting that causes these national networks and their local affiliates to make some very embarrassing and credibility affecting mistakes. One of the more memorable mistakes and true low point for today’s journalism occurred this July, less than a week after the crash of Asiana flight 214 in San Francisco.

Asiana Airlines is a Korean airline serving both domestic and international passengers. The July 6th crash claimed the lives of three passengers upon landing at San Francisco’s International Airport. This story flooded the national and local news networks for days. It was during this time that a Fox affiliate, San Francisco station KTVU, “confirmed” the names of the pilots of the doomed flight and announced them on-air. It was immediately obvious the names given, “Captain Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk,” and “Bang Ding Ow,” were not only incorrect but racially insensitive.

The station and reporter quickly apologized for the mistake but the damage had been done and the clip exploded all over the internet. The station responded quickly once again by turning to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA was signed into law by President Clinton in 1998 and basically it requires sites to remove any copyrighted material on their pages at the request of the copyright holder. The law is intended to protect misuse of copyrighted material however KTVU used the law to their advantage to remove the embarrassing news clip and many sites which carried the video now display the generic message indicating the “video is no longer available due to a copyright claim…”

Bending the law when possible to suit ones own needs is not a new concept and KTVU is setting an interesting precedent using the DMCA in this manner. In the current news pattern of beating out other networks whenever possible, a mistake like this is unfortunately all too common. With the end of the 24-hour news network no where in site, it would not be surprising to see this tactic catch on and be used more often out of context.

Search Widerman Malek


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