N.J. Sues YouTube over Deadly Crash Footage

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is suing several video sites for failing or refusing to remove copyrighted footage of a deadly crash.

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is suing several video sites, including YouTube, for infringing on the copyright of car crash footage recorded on the turnpike, eWEEK has learned.

The footage in question was recorded by a NJTA video camera. The video depicts a car traveling southbound on the New Jersey Turnpike and crashing into the Great Egg Harbor toll plaza on May 10. The driver, a 52-year-old New Jersey resident, was killed.

The NJTA is also suing NextPoint LLC, the owner of video-sharing site break.com. The complaint names UK-based LiveLeak.com as a defendant as well, though according to LiveLeak the NJTA has voluntarily removed them from the lawsuit after they removed the video.

The NJTA is suing for direct copyright infringement by public performance, public display and reproduction, as well as inducement, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement.


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"The video serves no worthwhile purpose and shows a tremendous lack of common human decency towards the family of the victim," the complaint reads. "Nevertheless, defendants have either refused or failed to remove the video from their Web sites."

According to the complaint, the NJTA requested the videos removal from YouTube upon learning of its existence. YouTube complied, but the video had already been copied by other users and remains on the site.

"YouTube did not try to prevent the very same video from being uploaded again by users immediately after it was purportedly removed," the complaint reads.

A Youtube spokesperson said the company removed the video "because it violated our terms of services. Because our removal also complied with our obligations under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, we see no legal basis for a claim." Last month Google CEO Eric Schmidt said YouTube would soon launch an automated system that would help copyright holders detect and deter abuse.

LiveLeak removed the video after receiving a formal court request, according to co-founder Hayden Hewitt.

Hewitt said the lawsuit is guaranteed to bring more publicity to the video.

"To be honest I think its kind of a strange situation," he said. "Usually you just file a nice, low level, discrete DMCA takedown...And usually these lawsuits are around entertainment video, where theres a financial stake. I dont understand it."

According to the complaint, the offending video has been viewed 19,833 times on YouTube, 189,037 times on LiveLeak.com and 6,933 times on break.com as of May 21. Less than 24 hours later, on May 22, the videos had been viewed 24,346 times, 213,295 times and 16,812 times, respectively.

The NJTA also is suing unnamed corporations and individuals who may have helped distribute the stolen video.