During the aftermath of yesterday's scary NASCAR crash, a video emerged on Youtube taken mere feet away from where one of the car's tires landed in the grandstand. It was an amazing, fan shot video of what happened. And then Youtube and NASCAR pulled it on copyright grounds.
That video was taken down yesterday. The reaction on Twitter was one of mostly confusion. There were questions over how NASCAR could possibly claim ownership over a fan's video of the race. The video was pulled on Youtube, but not before Deadspin was able to steal a copy and host one natively on its own site.
A provision in NASCAR's legal fine print on any ticket says they own the rights to any video, sounds or data related to a race. The question became, eventually, whether or not that legal fine print extended to a fan video. Observers criticized NASCAR for taking the video down in the middle of a news story that was still unfolding. The Verge argues some saw the removal as a violation of the Digital Digital Millenium Copyright Act, which is used to combat online piracy. This was not piracy. It was a homemade video. This was news. It was the best view of what the crash looked like from the stands available at the time.
This was NASCAR's official statement defending taking down the video:
The fan video of the wreck on the final lap of today's NASCAR Nationwide Series race was blocked on YouTube out of respect for those injured in today's accident. Information on the status of those fans was unclear and the decision was made to err on the side of caution with this very serious incident.
You can't really fault NASCAR for erring on the side of caution when it comes to fans' injuries. Over 20 people were injured in the crash, some seriously. At the time the video was taken down, two people were still in critical condition. They're in stable condition now. If anything had happened to them, the video could have taken a darker meaning than intended. But on the other hand, the defense doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The only video of the crash on Youtube, and the one we used in our post on the crash, was one uploaded by the official NASCAR account.
So they were okay with videos of the incident being available so long as it was was on their terms. Eventually Youtube sided with the critics, though, and restored the video:
Our partners and users do not have the right to take down videos from YouTube unless they contain content which is copyright infringing, which is why we have reinstated the videos.
Whether or not this case will be used as a precedent setter for the future remains to be seen. For now, questions are drifting towards whether or not they should be running the Daytona 500 on Sunday after what happened. Organizers claim the safety fence has been restored and the track is perfectly race worthy. But some fans are still cautious, and so NASCAR has agreed to move anyone if they don't feel comfortable in their seat.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.