Animal-rights group battles rodeo cowboys over videos

Rocky wire report, Rocky Mountain News
June 11, 2008

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has been accused of misusing copyright law to block videos of allegedly cruel treatment of animals from being posted on Google Inc.’s YouTube.com video-sharing site.

The animal-rights group Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, based in Geneva, Ill., photographs and videotapes rodeos “in order to expose and publicize animal abuse, injuries and death,” according to the complaint the group filed Tuesday in Chicago federal court.

SHARK created a YouTube account and posted 20 videos it said documented animal abuse at rodeos. The videos had such titles as “Cheyenne Rodeo Announcer Caught Lying about Animal Deaths,” “Rodeos Abuse, Maim and Kill Animals” and “Twisted Animal Abuse at Pendleton Round-up PRCA Rodeo.” The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association of Colorado Springs sanctions rodeo events in the U.S.

In December 2007, the association delivered take-down notices to YouTube, claiming the animal-rights group had violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by posting rodeo videos, according to the complaint.

The cowboys’ group told YouTube it owned the copyrights to the posted videos and hadn’t authorized any such use, according to court papers. YouTube then closed SHARK’s account and disabled access to all the videos the rights group posted.

According to its complaint, the cowboys group “can’t claim copyright in any live rodeo event,” SHARK said.

The rights group claims the cowboys invoked the copyright act “in order to chill SHARK’s efforts to raise public awareness of animal abuse at PRCA-sanctioned events and not in order to enforce any perceived copyright interest.” YouTube restored SHARK’s account in December. SHARK now has 13 rodeo-related videos available on the YouTube site.

SHARK said it filed suit out of concern that “further take-down notices from PRCA representatives would continue to result in YouTube removing SHARK videos from the public eye.” It asked the court to declare it isn’t infringing the cowboys group’s copyrights by putting the videos out for public viewing. It’s also seeking a court order barring the PRCA from “misrepresenting” that “recording live rodeo events constitutes copyright infringement.” SHARK also asked for attorney fees and money damages.

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