Is a grocery store entitled to a court order blocking a TV station from showing surveillance video of an altercation in the store that resulted in man’s death? The TV station, WWL, got the footage via a public records request to the local police. The Breaux Mart grocery store, though, argued that it had a copyright in the footage and for that reason asked a federal judge in New Orleans to block the broadcast. Sound like a stretch? It does to me too. And that’s how it apparently sounded to the judge, who denied the request.
Breaux Mart seems to have relied on a few faulty assumptions. First, it apparently assumed that surveillance footage could be copyrighted. Given that copyright is designed to protect the creative process, it’s hard to see how surveillance video qualifies. Not exactly Martin Scorsese
quality material there. Second, it argued that WWL sought to use “unlawfully obtained intellectual property.” Huh? First off, WWL obtained the footage from a public records request to the local police department. So, where’s the unlawful part? Second, seems a little much to call the footage “intellectual property.” I admittedly didn’t see the footage, but I doubt that it contains any trade secrets, since the camera was planted in a publicly accessible grocery aisle. Third, Breaux Mart argued that if the TV station could broadcast the footage, other businesses would be deterred from sharing surveillance videos with the police. Gee. How can the police address the problem of a business not voluntarily turning over relevant information related to a criminal investigation? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a subpoena? Good decision by the judge. News organizations really shouldn’t be prevented from doing their job. Nor investigated for it.
But that’s another story entirely.