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New Jersey Sues YouTube Over Crash Video 410

eldavojohn writes "The New Jersey Turnpike Authority (NJTA) has sued YouTube and a number of other video sites for showing footage of a car crash that happened on the turnpike and was, therefore, property of the turnpike. The NJTA requested the footage be removed under the DMCA — which YouTube complied with — unfortunately, the video was copied to several other sites. The NJTA still seems to be targeting YouTube since YouTube 'did not try to prevent the very same video from being uploaded again by users immediately after it was purportedly removed.' We'll have to watch this closely and see if, even after you take down material violating the DMCA, you are at fault to any extent for people who already copied said material."
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New Jersey Sues YouTube Over Crash Video

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  • What copyright? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:06PM (#19283173) Journal
    It's an automated camera system. There's no creative input. Thus, no copyright.
    • video of the crash (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:09PM (#19283203)
      Copyright this []
      • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:09PM (#19283703)
        The Google Ads for airbags beneath the video seem a bit tasteless!
      • by jokestress ( 837997 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:40PM (#19283923)
        "Killed in the crash last week was Bernard King, 52, of Lower Township, Cape May County... King, a dealer at the Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort, was traveling south on the parkway when he crashed into the Great Egg Harbor toll plaza in Somers Point around 8:30 a.m. on May 10... King's mother, Edna King, said her son had a seizure about three hours before the accident... King's car was traveling an estimated 65 mph when it hit the toll booth." Parkway officials investigate leaked video of fiery crash []
        • by Random Destruction ( 866027 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:54PM (#19284017)
          I thought having seizures prevented one from getting/keeping a license. The guy I knew who had them wasn't allowed to get his license until he had been seizure free for a year. Certainly sounds like he shouldn't have been driving.
          • by Kadin2048 ( 468275 ) * <> on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:59PM (#19284061) Homepage Journal
            He shouldn't have. Unfortunately, the restrictions against people who have seizures are so strict, that many people who occasionally have minor seizures fail to report them, because it can be ruinous to lose your driver's license. (Lose license = lose job, lose house, etc.) There's very little middle ground.

            This guy shouldn't have been driving, but it's not really surprising that he was. The system as it is, only punishes people who have seizures and are honest about it.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by NMerriam ( 15122 )

              He shouldn't have. Unfortunately, the restrictions against people who have seizures are so strict, that many people who occasionally have minor seizures fail to report them, because it can be ruinous to lose your driver's license. (Lose license = lose job, lose house, etc.) There's very little middle ground.

              Correct. My girlfriend had a period of about a year in college where she would occasionally get minor seizures on the left side of her body. She could tell one was coming a few minutes before they occu

      • by aldheorte ( 162967 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:58PM (#19284059)
        It's pretty impressive how the toll booth structure absorbed the impact easily. The structure did not even wobble. It looks like a tollbooth operator would have been okay even in the booth that was hit, at least if there was no shrapnel from the explosion. No doubt concussed and shocked, but alive. I say good engineering on that one.

        Someone else said that the driver was having seizures several hours before the accident? Why was he driving? It's lucky that the tollbooth stopped him or he could have killed several other people. It's unfortunate he died, but fortunate no one else was hurt.

        By the way, watch the SUV that just goes on by through the EZ Pass at regular speed as if nothing happened. Just another day on the turnpike, I guess. Also, the nitwit running towards the flaming car might want to lookup what 'secondary explosion' means.
    • Re:What copyright? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cpt kangarooski ( 3773 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:28PM (#19283409) Homepage
      That argument was used against cameras before, and it failed. It'll fail now. There might not be much creativity, but the threshold is so low for that, that I have no doubt that it would be found sufficient. I agree that it shouldn't be, partially because the threshold should be a touch higher than that (or at least more carefully analyzed than is usual), and that an additional requirement should be the intent of the author to make a creative work, as opposed to something else, e.g. a mere recording for other purposes (to catch toll evaders, to record accidents, to compile evidence against criminals as to their whereabouts, etc.). But that's not going to help much here.
      • by Reziac ( 43301 ) *
        ISTM the criteria ought to be "Is this in a publicly-funded venue? is it being filmed by publicly-funded equipment? then what happens here and is filmed here is in public, and therefore ought to be public domain, video and all."

        Is the NJTA a private corp? If so, then the above wouldn't apply.

        Your thoughts on this? I'd value your perspective.

        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          It appears that the NJTA is a public entity under the state of New Jersey, but it's not clear to me if it receives public funds or not. Also, many enterprises receive varying amounts of public funds. At what level and nature of public funding before everything they do ends up in the public domain? Ie, how does accepting public funds taint an organization?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I was addressing the reason presented. There are in fact several independent reasons that ought to prevent this from being copyrightable: it's not creative, it's not meant to be a creative work, it's done by what is, ultimately, a government body. And there are reasons why even if it were, it shouldn't be relevant here, the main one being that it's become news and thus publicizing it is likely fair use.

          Don't confuse that there is one reason against it with the idea that that would be the only reason.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by prelelat ( 201821 )
      I don't know the DMCA and how it relates to take down notices, but I recall from anouther /. post on a different topic that you have to proceed with the take down no matter if it is copyright material or not. I think once you have complied you can fight it if its not copyright or not. But I think the law actually states that you have to take it down imediatly.

      But I'm no lawyer and I don't know the DMCA I just remember reading that here somewhere.
      • Re:What copyright? (Score:5, Informative)

        by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:42PM (#19283517) Homepage
        > I don't know the DMCA and how it relates to take down notices, but I recall from anouther
        > /. post on a different topic that you have to proceed with the take down no matter if it
        > is copyright material or not.

        This is not true. Nothing obligates you to obey a takedown notice. If you _do_ comply then you are immune to suit for copyright infringment but if you do not the putative copyright owner must still sue you and prove infringment. A takedown notice is just a letter from a lawyer. It isn't any sort of an official document.
        • Good to know, like I said I am not so familure with it. Thats also why I said I heard it on here, so that people would know my source may not be so accurate.
        • Re:What copyright? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:46PM (#19283967) Homepage
          Except that no ISP is going to take that fight for their customer. They take it down, whoever wants to protest can file a counternotice and go after those who sent the takedown. I think it's been tested before that if you send a takedown for public domain material, most of them will just do it. Maybe, just maybe if you have a flag in your account saying "Being harassed by asshat, check takedown notices" they'll verify it but otherwise not. Wanna fight this? You post it, you have it pulled, you send counternotice which means they'll have to either sue or let it be restored. Then you and the ACLU or whoever take the fight. Right, wrong or otherwise the sane thing for an ISP is to comply, there's absolutely nothing for them to gain by becoming a party to any lawsuit.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        you have to proceed with the take down no matter if it is copyright material or not

        No. First, the 17 USC 512 take-down system only covers copyrighted material, to the extent that it is copyrighted. So if you post public domain material, for example, then you can safely ignore a take-down notice. Second, ISPs aren't obligated to comply with the notice, although doing so will help to protect them in the event that the material really was put up in an infringing manner. Third, the person who put the material u
  • Public roads (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Martix ( 722774 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:08PM (#19283189)
    The turnpike was funded by tax dollars.

    So as far as im concerned its public not private

    My 2 Watts

    p.s. file under DMCA abuse
    • Dangerous argument, as things like public libraries and some health clinics (in addition to the obvious case of government agencies) are also funded by tax dollars. You want your reading habits and medical records out and around?
      • (That's not to say that I think that the NJTA's actions weren't absolutely idiotic.)
      • Re:Public roads (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AlinuxNCSU ( 589202 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:25PM (#19283361)

        We have other laws to protect private information: privacy laws, theft laws, even classified information laws. The DMCA is a copyright law. Copyright law is not meant to protect secret information, it's meant to protect the copying of published information. However, government works are typically in the public domain.

        If they want to stop the dissemination of the video because it's classifiied or private, the NJ government can do that. But they can't use the DMCA (assuming you buy the GP's argument).

      • There's no expectation of privacy on a highway anyway, but you'd have every right to expect that your library records and medical history would remain private. Copyright is about keeping others from copying what you would make public, while privacy protection is about keeping others from accessing what you would keep secret.
      • Those indeed should not be covered by copyright. Copyright's primary purpose is not to keep things secret -- we do have privacy laws, after all.
  • How?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raylu ( 914970 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:12PM (#19283227) Homepage Journal

    'did not try to prevent the very same video from being uploaded again by users immediately after it was purportedly removed.'

    So...what was YouTube supposed to do? Seize control of the internet and delete all copies of the video?

    • Re:How?! (Score:5, Funny)

      by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:15PM (#19283267)
      Put sieves with the right-shaped holes in the tubes. Empty periodically. Easy.
    • by cortana ( 588495 )
      They could record hashes of any removed content, and compare new uploads with the list of banned hashes.
  • The real issue? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by heyetv ( 248750 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:12PM (#19283229)
    "The NJTA also is suing unnamed corporations and individuals who may have helped distribute the stolen video. "

    Exactly -- who stole the media to begin with, and why aren't they looking more thoroughly into their own security problems, rather than spit lawsuits? Why are they unnamed, but the video sites are put right out there publicly? Detract attention from the real problem? The above quote is the very last sentence from TFA, and the only mention of how the video was leaked...
    • Re:The real issue? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Doctor_Jest ( 688315 ) * on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:23PM (#19283341)
      Because it's easier to illegally invoke the DMCA (god, why can't this law be struck down?) than to actually check to see if there's a mole or a "thief" inside the NJTA. (Rather than claim it's NJTA property, which by default is the people's property... since it is funded by taxes, they should've said it was for an ongoing investigation of a security leak.)

      This is yet another example of the DMCA being improperly used by some corksoaking lawyer at the behest of another group trying to CYA for being stupid about security of their cameras... You're right... it's a diversionary tactic.

      I wonder if a live feed of that camera's used anywhere? You know for TV traffic and that sort of thing?
  • Video link (Score:3, Informative)

    by Exaton ( 523551 ) <> on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:12PM (#19283231)

    Video is visible as part of a news report here : cid=2 [] (Flash required).

    Found through Yahoo! video.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      According to the complaint, the offending video has been viewed 19,833 times on YouTube, 189,037 times on and 6,933 times on 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.
      Well I guess by creating this lawsuit, the video will now be unofficially available all across the web and increase the views to 1,194,345,431,456,345,223 times.
  • by Maximalist ( 949682 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:13PM (#19283239)
    This just goes to show that the whole copyright system is absurdly broken.

    A more reasonable legal tool for knocking this off the internet might be for the estate of the dead guy to sue under an right of publicity/invasion of privacy theory.

    Some stuff doesn't belong in public circulation... but copyright is not the only way to control that sort of thing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by julesh ( 229690 )
      This just goes to show that the whole copyright system is absurdly broken.

      This has little or nothing to do with the copyright system. Just because somebody claims to hold copyright on a video and somebody else jumps to remove it doesn't mean they actually do hold that copyright.

      As has been suggested above, there's a very good argument that this is actually a copyright-free video (no creative input was put into making it; it is a straightforward reproduction of what actually occurred), and google is reactin
    • by Kohath ( 38547 )
      In order to sue, you're supposed to have suffered harm or damage in some way. How was the dead guy harmed by this video?

      Lawsuits are supposed to be about addressing genuine harm, not about using the courts to push people around.
    • the estate of the dead guy to sue under an right of publicity/invasion of privacy theory.

      I don't think anybody has a right to privacy about something that happens in public.

      Why did the guy crash? According to this [] the driver had a "history of seizures". If so, then he shouldn't be driving at all, he was a danger to others. Or perhaps it was a suicide, or he could have been drunk or asleep, who knows. But anyway, he was the only one to blame on what happened. It was only luck that made him hit a toll booth

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <> on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:19PM (#19283303)
    This is an abuse of the concept of copyright by the turkpike authority; they're simply trying to censor unpleasant material. That we even entertain this idea is insanity, and is a testament to this idea that everything needs to be fenced off and owned. The turnpike organization is a public authority, and even if it weren't, you can't claim copyright on an automated recording of a public place! There's no creative element, no promotion of the arts, nothing other than a senseless and greedy enclosure of what ought to be common.
    • > The turnpike organization is a public authority...

      It is an agency of the state of New Jersey. State governments can own and enforce copyrights.

      > ...and even if it weren't, you can't claim copyright on an automated recording...

      This may be a valid defense.

      > ...of a public place!

  • It's amazing to me how people easily accept abuse, and how abusive the U.S. government has become. There is only one reason to control information about roads: To aid corruption. What does New Jersey have to hide?

    The freeway collapse in San Francisco [] showed very thin concrete and poor adhesion [], in my opinion.

    Maybe that's what New Jersey officials have to hide. Did someone take money to allow poor construction?
  • Is New Jersey in a budget crisis right now? This has to be a joke. Roads are part of public property, are they not? How can they sue for something like this?
  • by nanosquid ( 1074949 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:26PM (#19283377)
    This was a public, newsworthy event, captured by a public camera. Not only is there nothing wrong with viewing and posting it, there is something decidedly wrong with trying to hide it. In fact, that's the kind of behavior you'd expect if they are concerned about getting sued (say, over dangerous tool booth design or signage).

    Whether or not they are concerned about liability in this particular case, setting a precedent that governments can take down public footage of public, newsworthy events through the DMCA would be bad. This kind of video needs to be open to public scrutiny.
    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      I am the most cynical person I know, but perhaps being cynical is not the most reasonable approach. An accident is a traumatic event, and it can be argued that a compassionate society is not going to make it's chief form of entertainment watching such tragedies. It is one thing to watch a few individuals prostitute themselves for fame, as is done regularly on America's Funniest Home Videos, but quite another to flaunt other's misfortunes to the anonymous masses.

      This really is a side effect of our societ

      • by nanosquid ( 1074949 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:50PM (#19283997)
        An accident is a traumatic event, and it can be argued that a compassionate society is not going to make it's chief form of entertainment watching such tragedies.

        Quite to the contrary: a compassionate society wouldn't try to hide suffering and death under a blanket of silence. There is nothing shameful about either dying or other people taking an interest in it; in a compassionate society, that is what people do. What is shameful and incompassionate is that people like you are trying to insulate themselves from these natural events.

        If one believes that the highest form of art is sneaking up to a window and filming a neighbor in a compromising position, then there is no problem with this video.

        Now you have slipped from bad arguments to pure demagoguery and name calling: what, please tell, does voyeurism have to do with documenting a news event on a public highway?

        We were such in a hurry to film every innocuous act, that we did not set up a proper legal framework to control the flow of the footage, so we use the DCMA, a blunt and largely ineffective tool, to close the barn door after all the horses have escaped.

        We have a legal framework, and it applies here: in some places, you have an expectation of privacy, in others, you don't. If you drive on a public highway, you have no expectation of privacy. And, in fact, the reason this video appeared in the first place is because the NJTA didn't recognize privacy rights in the first place: they released the video to the press, after all. All they are complaining about is that it has received wider distribution than they originally intended.
  • by Shajenko42 ( 627901 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:26PM (#19283383)
    The Slashdot article does not make it clear that the video was taken using NJTP property. On first reading, I thought that someone used their own camera to record this, and New Jersey was somehow claiming copyright on anything that happened on the turnpike.
  • by mary_will_grow ( 466638 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @12:27PM (#19283395)
    From the summary:

    Showing footage of a car crash that happened on the turnpike and was, therefore, property of the turnpike.

    No. They don't claim they own the footage because it happened on the turnpike, they claim it is their footage because it was an NJTA camera that recorded it. The summary's incorrect statement leads people to believe that the NJTA claims everything recorded by anyone on the turnpike is their property. Reading the first paragraph of the actual article dispelled that.

    Why do people submit stories and summaries before even understanding the target article?
    • Who pays for the cameras on the NJTP? The government. Where do they get their great pile of money from? The public. Which means that anyone should have the right to post or view that video along with any others whenever and wherever they see fit. This reactionary stupidity by NJ is rather weird, and makes it seem like they have something to gain by the censoring of that particular video. Why else would they care enough to invoke the fucking DMCA?

      The fact is, though, that the footage of the crash, whether
  • Idiots. If the point was to reduce viewing of the video, this ain't the way.
  • This is what happens when you give the big corporations what they want and pass laws that are there for the companies and not for the people. People that a government are supposed to protect / represent.
  • So they get paid when this thing is aired on Maximum Exposure
  • If it is owned by the state, then the video is public domain. Even if it is a private corporation operating under a state granted monopoly, the state has rights to the footage if it was placed there for public safety. If it is available as evidence in court, for accident investigations or whatever, it is available for other public uses by people other than the state or the NJTA. Standards for keeping publicly owned information classified are high and are completely different than copyright which the stae
  • I've mirrored the video, anyone is welcome to grab it and mirror it as they please. Hopefully a lot of our euro friends will mirror it and give the fuckers in NJ the finger.

    (as a side note, its a BITCHEN car crash). []
  • Offtopic for sure, and condolences to those who (probably) died in the crash (despite the fact they were going too fast, and obviously not paying attention to signs (and often road bumps) warning of the toll booths and such).

    But man, I seriously gotta admire how that toll booth was constructed. Even the upright walls of the booth didn't waver in the slightest.

    At least there's some good engineering involved. (Or maybe it should have been made as a break-away thing to protect drivers in such an incident; I
  • FOIA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DustyShadow ( 691635 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:33PM (#19283867) Homepage
    I did like a 2 minute search on Lexis and one case I found was where a county government sued for copyright infringement on tax maps and it was dismissed due to the state's FOIA. So even if they are able to get copyright, the FOIA may trump it.
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @01:38PM (#19283897) Homepage

    This could be interesting if YouTube fights it. It's an open question under US law whether security camera images are copyrightable. See this legal article [], note 153. The Supreme Court ruled in Feist vs. Rural Telephone [] that the data in phone books are not copyrightable; "The standard of originality is low, but it exists". So anybody can scan in a phone book and put the info into a database.

    That's a famous decision - whole industries are based on it. The Court ruled that originality is a constitutional requirement: "Original, as the term is used in copyright, means only that the work was independently created by the author (as opposed to copied from other works), and that it possesses at least some minimal degree of creativity. 1 M. Nimmer & D. Nimmer, Copyright 2.01[A], [B] (1990) (hereinafter Nimmer)."

    The output of a security camera has no author. That's the key here. Copyright must start with an author.

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Saturday May 26, 2007 @10:37PM (#19288045)
    Did they get the appropriate releases signed from all of the persons recorded?

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