No, Creating An NFT Of The Video Of A Horrific Shooting Will Not Get It Removed From The Internet

from the that's-not-how-any-of-this-works dept

Andy Parker has experienced something that no one should ever have to go through: having a child murdered. Even worse, his daughter, Alison, was murdered on live TV, while she was doing a live news broadcast, as an ex-colleague shot her and the news station’s cameraman dead. It got a lot of news coverage, and you probably remember the story. Maybe you even watched the video (I avoided it on purpose, as I have no desire to see such a gruesome sight). Almost none of us can even fathom what that experience must be like, and I can completely understand how that has turned Parker into something of an activist. We wrote about him a year ago, when he appeared in a very weird and misleading 60 Minutes story attacking Section 230.

While Parker considers himself an “anti-big tech, anti-Section 230” advocate, we noted that his story actually shows the benefits of Section 230, rather than the problems with it. Parker is (completely understandably!) upset that the video of his daughter’s murder is available online. And he wants it gone. As we detailed in our response to the 60 Minutes story, Parker had succeeded in convincing various platforms to quickly remove that video whenever it’s uploaded. Something they can do, in part, because of Section 230’s protections that allow them to moderate freely, and to proactively moderate content without fear of crippling lawsuits and liability.

The 60 Minutes episode was truly bizarre, because it explains Parker’s tragic situation, and then notes that YouTube went above and beyond to stop the video from being shared on its platform, and then it cuts to Parker saying he “expected them to do the right thing” and then says that Google is “the personification of evil”… for… doing exactly what he asked?

Parker is now running for Congress as well, and has been spouting a bunch of bizarre things about the internet and content moderation on Twitter. I’d link to some of them, but he blocked me (a feature, again, that is aided by Section 230’s existence). But now the Washington Post has a strange article about how Parker… created an NFT of the video as part of his campaign to remove it 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.

So… none of this makes any sense. First of all, Parker doesn’t own the copyright, as the article notes (though many paragraphs later, even though it seems like kind of a key point!).

Parker does not own the copyright to the footage of his daughter?s murder that aired on CBS affiliate WDBJ in 2015.

But it says he’s doing this to claim “ownership” of the video, because what appear to be very, very bad lawyers have advised him that by creating an NFT he can “claim ownership” of the video, and then use the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown provisions instead. Everything about this is wrong.

First, while using copyright to takedown things you don’t want is quite common, it’s not (at all) what copyright is meant for. And, as much as Parker does not want the video to be available, there is a pretty strong argument that many uses of that video are covered by fair use.

But, again, he doesn’t hold the copyright. So, creating an NFT of the video does not magically give him a copyright, nor does it give him any power under the DMCA to demand takedowns. That requires the actual copyright. Which Parker does not have. Even more ridiculously, the TV station that does hold the copyright has apparently offered to help Parker use the copyright to issue DMCA takedowns:

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 HONR network, a nonprofit created by Pozner that helps people targeted by online harassment and hate. ?By doing so, we enabled the HONR Network to flag the video for removal from platforms like YouTube and Facebook,? Latek said.

So what does the NFT do? Absolutely nothing. Indeed, the NFT is nothing more than basically a signed note, saying “this is a video.” And part of the ethos of the NFT space is that people are frequently encouraged to “right click and save” the content, and to share it as well — because the content and the NFT are separate.

Hell, there’s an argument (though I’d argue a weak one — though others disagree) that by creating an NFT of a work he has no copyright over, Parker has actually opened himself up to a copyright infringement claim. Indeed, the TV station is quoted in the article noting that, while it has provided licenses to Parker to help him get the video removed, “those usage licenses do not and never have allowed them to turn our content into NFTs.”

I understand that Parker wants the video taken down — even though there may be non-nefarious, legitimate reasons for those videos to remain available in some format. But creating an NFT doesn’t give him any copyright interest, or any way to use the DMCA to remove the videos and whoever told Parker otherwise should be disbarred. They’re taking advantage of him and his grief, and giving him very, very bad legal advice.

Meanwhile, all the way at the end of the article, it is noted — once again — that the big social media platforms are extremely proactive in trying to remove the video of her murder:

?We remain committed to removing violent footage filmed by Alison Parker?s murderer, and we rigorously enforce our policies using a combination of machine learning technology and human review,? YouTube spokesperson Jack Malon said in a statement.


Facebook bans any videos that depict the shooting from any angle, with no exceptions, according to Jen Ridings, a spokesperson for parent company Meta.

?We?ve removed thousands of videos depicting this tragedy since 2015, and continue to proactively remove more,? Ridings said in a statement, adding that they ?encourage people to continue reporting this content.?

The reporter then notes that he was still able to find the video on Facebook (though all the ones he found were quickly removed).

Which actually goes on to highlight the nature of the problem. It is impossible to find and block the video with perfect accuracy. Facebook and YouTube employ some of the most sophisticated tools out there for finding this stuff, but the sheer volume of content, combined with the tricks and modifications that uploaders try, mean that they’re never going to be perfect. So even if Parker got the copyright, which he doesn’t, it still wouldn’t help. Because these sites are already trying to remove the videos.

Everything about this story is unfortunate. The original tragedy, of course, is heartbreakingly horrific. But Parker’s misguided crusade isn’t helping, and the whole NFT idea is so backwards that it might lead to him potentially facing a copyright claim, rather than using one. I feel sorry for Parker, not only for the tragic situation with his daughter, but because it appears that some very cynical lawyers are taking advantage of Parker’s grief to try to drive some sort of policy outcome out of it. He deserves better than to be preyed upon like that.

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Comments on “No, Creating An NFT Of The Video Of A Horrific Shooting Will Not Get It Removed From The Internet”

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James Burkhardt (profile) says:


IF NFTs were actually what their advocates claimed, Parker would have actually made the video impossible to remove from the internet (or more impossible, i suppose?). Because the immutable blockchain would retain that video in a publicly available location that can never be removed. That’s the whole point of the public ledger. Thankfully, the best the NFT does is point to the actual video, which needs to be online for the NFT to mean anything, therefore doing literally the opposite of your stated goal.

NFT bros fucking need to die in a flourine fire.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Not how any of that works

Whatever lawyers are giving him advice need to be fired, from a cannon, into the sun, because that’s not how anything works. You don’t get to turn something you don’t own into an NFT and then act as though that’s the equivalent of owning the copyright on it, and if this ends up in court I don’t see that going well for him in the slightest, sympathetic story or not.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

“repeatedly offered to provide Mr. Parker with the additional copyright license”

Is this like when Rightshaven & the newspaper played the just the rights to sue game transfer rights that don’t actually exist?

I’ve seen the video a time or 3, but on tv rather than the internet.
I can imagine that everytime this video ends up on a platform it causes him great pain, but I honestly can’t see how the platforms could do more for his case.
They can’t check every video uploaded in realtime, they can use matching like the NCMEC images/content id, etc do but minor changes to the files can render those new uploads invisible to the all see technological eye.

While he imagines its really simple to instantly locate and remove the file, this isn’t reality.

They didn’t go fast enough!!

  • Well with the couple billion other takedown demands, there might be a delay in them removing it.

There should be a fast lane for ME!

  • Lets ignore all of the other people who are suffering when assholes reupload footage that causes pain to others. Beheading videos, captured troops murdered, school shooting footage, footage of plane crashes, and a long list of things. These are all taken down, perhaps not at the speed you want but how much have to spent to build a better system?

The belief that somehow the platforms are making huge amounts of money from these horrible videos aren’t really based on reality. But this belief fuels they that can do more because of all of the imaginary dollars.

Who ever suggested making it an NFT to him should be ashamed, but with that species of lowlife shame isn’t something they can feel.

I am sorry people keep uploading the video, but what do you realistically expect them to do?
Hire everyone on the planet to watch the other halfs uploads in real time to make sure the video of her being murdered is never uploaded ever again?
Develop a drone program that gets close to peoples homes & remotely checks to see if they have a copy of the video and then destroy the computer?

I’m sorry you are in pain sir, but you need to stop listening to the people around you telling you its possible to stop it from ever being uploaded again. That isn’t how any of this works & your pain has made you ignore reality.

It would be a perfect world where objectionable video never made it online, but the world isn’t perfect & you can’t demand it be perfect. You blindly ignoring truth because of your pain doesn’t make you a better person, it makes you a dangerous person who has no problem with undermining everything else just to protect yourself.

Rico R. (profile) says:

I get emails from on a regular basis asking me to sign various petitions created by their users. One time I got an email from them about a petition by this guy, aiming to convince the TV station to give him a co-copyright on the work, so he can use the DMCA to take down the videos. This was well before the NFT development. Needless to say, I didn’t sign that one!

There’s one part in Techdirt’s story that baffles me, though:

Indeed, the TV station is quoted in the article noting that…it has provided licenses to Parker to help him get the video removed…

I’m not sure such a license would even be valid under current copyright law. There is no exclusive right to "get a work removed from the internet" under copyright law that can be licensed, just like newspapers couldn’t license "the right to sue" to Righthaven, and the court said as much when dismissing Righthaven’s lawsuits.

I think the most they could do is outsource the ability to send DMCA notices to a third party, which could be Andy Parker. However, the final decision would have to be made by the copyright owner (the TV station). Unless they make a blanket decision to bar any re-use of the footage (fair use notwithstanding), there’s no other way for Parker to unilaterally say in any DMCA notice that the use of the video wasn’t authorized "by the copyright holder, its agent, or the law".

So, as sad as this story is, outside of a transfer of ownership of copyright, there’s no way for Andy Parker to use copyright by himself to get the video removed from the internet. Creating an NFT does nothing to help in this regard, either. If this really is advice from his lawyers, either they’re not knowledgeable of how technology works or they’re deliberately misleading him. I sincerely hope it’s not the latter.

Indeed, I have to agree with that one Anonymous commenter before me that says he shouldn’t be trying to look for videos to get them taken down. It’ll only give him more grief having to relive that moment over and over again. Maybe it would be better for him to give up this mission of scrubbing the video from the Internet. Such an effort is futile and will only delay his healing from the loss of his daughter. Sometimes, it really is best to just let it go.

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PaulT (profile) says:

I have noticed that a lot of the recent furor over NFTs has revealed that a lot of people really don’t know what they actually are.

For the uninitiated (and of course correct me if I’m wrong), the "problem" that NFTs are meant to fix is that while physical works have a fixed original state from which copies can be traced back to, there’s no such thing in terms of digital work, and since identical copies can be created with zero effort, you can’t claim to be the "owner" based on the work itself. For example, if you have a print of the Mona Lisa, people can trace the art back to the original painting and people know that you don’t have the original in your house. Whereas if you create a work digitally and publish it online, nobody can tell if you have the "original" or not.

So, NFTs attempt to resolve this "problem" (I keep putting that in quotes because I don’t know if it’s one that’s really important overall) by assigning a unique blockchain identifier to the "original" copy. So, no matter how much that is copied and shared – which will happen with any image online – you can always trace the original owner.

Note what that doesn’t do – it doesn’t grant the owner of the "original" any ownership or rights over the copies. It doesn’t make it so that someone can’t copy the JPG that the NFT backs, and it certainly doesn’t grant any ability to revoke copies of the "original". It just mean that if you’re trying to trade a digital good then you know it’s a confirmed original. Which is why I understand the use of NFT in things like gaming (though I don’t really like them there either), since it provides a way to inventory digital goods. But, the idea that you can do anything with an NFT created from an infinitely duplicatable image and have additional rights because one of them is on the blockchain just tells me that you don’t know what it is.

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Jordan says:

to be honest...

His desire for the video not to be ever shown again is pretty irrelevant. It happened, it was an actual event, and taking it down won’t make it unhappen.

It should be available for view for historical and journalistic purposes. So while I feel for his loss, his irrational crusade to delete reality gets no consideration.

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sumgai (profile) says:

So let’s see if I’ve got this right….

Copyright law explicitly exempts as fair use at least some of the following: parody, satire, commentary, critical commentary, newsworthiness, and probably a couple more things…. is that about correct?

Well, I’m pretty sure that newsroom managers, the ones who assign jobs to on-site news gathers, don’t send out reporters and cameramen to cover "horrific" events. Instead, their job description calls for them to assign those folks to cover newsworthy events. So let’s do this: let’s trade out the word "horrible", and replace it with "newsworthy" instead.

That removes knee-jerk emotion from the immediate equation, and let’s us more easily bring 1A into the discussion. Which in turn lets me ask, how is 1A not going to protect the posting of this video, should a platform wish to categorize it as newsworthy and leave it up? Yes, someone has hurt feelings, but that’s not up for discussion about what interest does the public have in such newsworthy matters. (Don’t forget, 1A has no bearing on a citizen’s private thoughts or emotions, it covers only the public interest.)

I can feel for Parker, so I won’t belittle his loss. At the same time, if I were his friend, I’d be advising him that it’s been nearly 7 years, and it’s time to put the past behind him and move on.

p.s. You’ve all covered already my thoughts on copyright and NFT’s, I’ll incorporate them here by proxy. 😉

Ryunosuke says:

I had to remember what this shooting actually was, so I looked it up on youtube, and another news station covered it (Cutting out the most graphic parts), again part of that whole fair use issue.

but ya, agree it’s not a big tech problem for moderating their own content, as questionable as it is in this case, again, fair use in covering a news story.

nasch (profile) says:


I was going to comment on this earlier but the site was down…

>”those usage licenses do not and never have allowed them to turn our content into NFTs.”

That sounds like another misunderstanding of NFTs.

“Copyright ownership gives the holder of the copyright in an original work of authorship six exclusive rights:

The right to reproduce and make copies of an original work;
The right to prepare derivative works based on the original work;
The right to distribute copies to the public by sale or another form of transfer, such as rental or lending;
The right to publicly perform the work;
The right to publicly display the work, and
The right to perform sound recordings publicly through digital audio transmission.”

Making a file with a URL that points to a copyrighted work is not one of the six exclusive rights. It’s not a copy, it’s not a derivative work (or every link is), and it doesn’t distribute, perform, or display the work. No copyright case here.

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