ABC and Yahoo are asking a federal judge to reject a copyright infringement claim brought by a man who used Facebook Live to stream his wife giving birth.
The broadcaster and Web publisher argue that they had a fair use right to incorporate a portion of the stream into an item about the growth of streaming video.
"This case presents a textbook example of a fair use," the companies write in a motion filed this week with U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan. "ABC reported and commented on a socially significant and newsworthy event: the phenomenon of a couple using the Facebook Lives program to publicly broadcast their son’s birth on the Internet."
The companies add that ABC used only 22 seconds of the 45-minute video, in order "to explain what the story was about, to enable viewers to understand and form an opinion about the couple’s actions, and to enable ABC journalists to comment on the event."
The companies' papers come in response to a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by Kali Kanongataa in September. Kanongataa drew 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 an 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.
Kanongataa 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. (Kanongataa also filed separate lawsuits against a host of other companies, including NBC Universal; most of those other cases are still pending.)
ABC argues in its new court papers that its use of the clip was "transformative" and doesn't substitute for the original -- which are factors that judges consider when evaluating questions of fair use. They add that "Good Morning America" had to use a portion of the clip, in order to examine issues surrounding live streaming.
"It was a news program that provided a very brief insight into the existence and nature of the video, which was quite different than plaintiff’s original purpose in livestreaming the entire last 45 minutes of his son’s birth and the couple’s experience in giving birth," ABC and Yahoo write. "The purpose of the GMA broadcast was to inform viewers that a couple had broadcast their son’s birth live, via Facebook, an unprecedented and controversial event, and to engage in commentary about the value or intrusiveness of such a broadcast. That task required some display of actual footage."