To expunge his daughter’s murder from the Internet, a father created an NFT of the grisly video


HR King
May 29, 2001
It starts as a routine TV news segment: an interview with the head of the local chamber of commerce. Suddenly, a shot rings out, startling the two-person film crew. As a gunman enters off-camera, reporter Alison Parker reacts to the sound, her jaw dropping wide. A steady wave of shots roar as Parker screams. She runs, desperately, as the camera tumbles to the ground. The clip cuts: the final scene is the legs of the shooter as he advances.

The grisly 17-second clip was recorded by videographer Adam Ward on Aug. 26, 2015, as he and Parker were fatally shot by a disgruntled former colleague while reporting near Roanoke. Broadcast live, the horrifying footage quickly went viral, viewed millions of times on Facebook, YouTube and other sites. Six years later, it still gets tens of thousands of views, despite the efforts by Parker’s father, Andy, to eliminate the clips from the Internet.
Now, Andy Parker has transformed the clip of the killings into an NFT, or non-fungible token, in a complex and potentially futile bid to claim ownership over the videos — a tactic to use copyright to force Big Tech’s hand.
“This is the Hail Mary,” Parker said, an “act of desperation.”
While Facebook and YouTube say they have taken down thousands of clips of the murders, dozens have remained on the platforms. Through the years, Parker has deployed a range of strategies for erasing the stragglers, enlisting a fleet of allies to search and flag the videos and filing complaints with federal regulators. Last month, he launched a congressional campaign focused partly on holding social media companies accountable for the spread of harmful content on their sites.
[Videos of his daughter’s murder still linger on Facebook. He’s calling on the FTC to step in.]
Under current law, the platforms are largely shielded from liability for the content of posts by their users. But the platforms may still be subject to copyright claims if they don’t remove infringing content, and experts say a lawsuit alleging the video is copyrighted material could offer Parker a more effective path to getting it taken down.
“For victims of horrific images being distributed on the Internet generally, unfortunately and inappropriately copyright does end up being an effective tool,” said Adam Massey, a partner at C.A. Goldberg, PLLC, a prominent law firm that has advised Parker.
Families of shooting victims have frequently relied on copyright law to get results. Lenny Pozner, whose son Noah Pozner was killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, has filed hundreds of copyright claims to get pictures of his son taken down from websites spreading conspiracy theories about the deadly Sandy Hook shooting. Copyright, Pozner has said, is a more effective tool than relying on the platform’s policies against hoaxes, for instance, which can often be opaque and unevenly enforced.
Andy Parker, left, whose daughter Alison, a reporter for WDBJ-TV reporter, was killed on air, and her boyfriend Chris Hurst, attend a rally on the East Front lawn of the Capitol to demand that Congress take action on gun control legislation on Sept. 10, 2015. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
Copyright also has been a useful tool for victims of nonconsensual pornography, where the mere threat of legal action can be more effective than petitioning platforms, Massey said.
“In the early days, there were folks, mostly women, who were having to register their copyrights of their nudes with the government to try and get them taken off websites …” he said. “Part of the logic is that, if you have the copyright, you can more effectively advocate with the platforms for their removal.”
Parker does not own the copyright to the footage of his daughter’s murder that aired on CBS affiliate WDBJ in 2015. But in December, he created an NFT of that tape on Rarible, a marketplace that deals in crypto assets, in an attempt to claim copyright ownership of the clip. That, he hopes, will give him legal standing to sue the social media companies to remove the videos from circulation.
NFTs are unique pieces of digital content logged as assets using blockchain, the same technology that powers cryptocurrency. Over the past year, NFTs have exploded in popularity as people have rushed to buy, sell and trade NFT collectibles created from fine art, crude memes and even an animated version of Melania Trump’s hat.
[What is an NFT, and how did an artist called Beeple sell one for $69 million at Christie’s?]
Under existing laws, copyright holders are exclusively able to reproduce, adapt or display their original work, unless they grant another party permission to do so. Intellectual property lawyers said the concepts should hold true for NFTs.
But the rush to transform the vast swath of content circulating freely online into NFTs has unearthed ownership disputes. The blockchain records a permanent history of every transaction on a decentralized server, theoretically making it easy to track the ownership. Amid the buying blitz are situations like Parker’s, where an NFT holder has created a duplicate, crypto-certified version of a piece of content, leaving two purported owners of the same media.
Experts say the case law on NFT ownership is still in the early stages of development and has already prompted a number of copyright disputes. In one instance, a 12-year-old coder sold an NFT collection he created of pixelated whale images called “Weird Whales” for over $300,000. But according to Fortune magazine, users accused the project of copying a separate image the coder does not appear to own to create his NFT. The boy’s father told the BBC he’s “100 percent certain” his son has not broken copyright law and has asked lawyers to “audit” the project.
Barbara Parker, Alison's mother, works in her home in Collinsville, Va., on Oct. 20, 2017, near a shelf that holds the ashes of her daughter as well as two local Emmy awards she won. (AFP Contributor/AFP via Getty Images)
WDBJ parent company Gray Television owns the copyright to the original footage of the shooting and has declined to hand it over. Kevin Latek, chief legal officer for Gray Television, contends that the footage does not depict Alison Parker’s murder since the “video does not show the assailant or the shootings during the horrific incident.”
In a statement, Latek said that the company has “repeatedly offered to provide Mr. Parker with the additional copyright license” to call on social media companies to remove the WDBJ footage “if it is being used inappropriately.”
This includes the right to act as their agent with the HORN network, a nonprofit created by Pozner that helps people targeted by online harassment and hate. “By doing so, we enabled the HORN Network to flag the video for removal from platforms like YouTube and Facebook,” Latek said.
Parker and his legal advisers say that without owning the footage, the usage license is of little use when it comes to forcing social media companies to remove clips of the killings. By leaning on the license as his legal basis to create an NFT of the copyrighted WDBJ footage, Parker hopes to bypass the standoff with Gray Television and take up his case again directly with the social media platforms.
[Father of slain journalist Alison Parker takes on YouTube over alleged refusal to remove graphic videos]

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HR Legend
Mar 20, 2005
This will fail. California couldn’t claw back the Nikki Catsouras pictures despite efforts from both the state and her parents.

There are too many people who just don’t care about others out there. Look at how hard it is to get revenge porn taken down.