A California resident who used Facebook to live stream his wife giving birth has sued ABC and Yahoo for allegedly infringing his copyright by displaying the video.
Kali Kanongataa made worldwide headlines when he streamed his son's birth on May 16 of this year through Facebook Live. The following day, ABC's "Good Morning America" ran a short item about the stream and showed a brief excerpt from the video, which had been widely viewed by then. The clip also appeared on Yahoo, which has a partnership with ABC.
The father said later that he thought his family in the Polynesian island Tonga would be able to view his son's birth, but didn't expect it to be seen by the public at large. "There's a lot of negative stuff on Facebook and so I thought this would be positive," he reportedly told People magazine in May.
He alleges in a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan that "Good Morning America" and Yahoo never obtained his permission to show the video, which he registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. "Defendants infringed plaintiff’s copyright in the video by reproducing and publicly displaying the the video on the GMA Website, Yahoo Website, and on GMA," he alleges in a petition filed Thursday.
He's seeking an injunction requiring the companies to remove the video and monetary damages of at least $150,000.
Yahoo said it doesn't comment on pending litigation, and ABC didn't respond to MediaPost's request for comment.
But both companies can attempt to defend themselves by arguing that the brief excerpt of the stream is protected by "fair use" principles. For instance, the companies could argue that Kali's use of live-streaming was in itself newsworthy.
Whether that argument would succeed isn't clear.
"Certainly showing an extreme example of live streaming could support some recycling of the material," says copyright and digital media expert Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University.
But he adds that questions of fair use require consideration of additional factors.
This isn't the first time mainstream media outlets have been sued for allegedly using material found on social media without first obtaining a license. Freelance photographer Daniel Morel, who posted his photos of the 2010 Haiti earthquake to Twitter, sued Agence France Presse and Getty Images for distributing the images without a license. He was awarded $1.2 million after a jury trial.