Man Sues CNN for Lifting His YouTube Video

Buffalo resident Alfonzo Cutaia was sitting in office last November watching a lake effect storm move into the area. He decided to record the storm on his phone and upload it to YouTube. 

He sensed he had a hit video on his hands and opted to generate revenue via YouTube’s monetization program. Cutaia selected “Standard YouTube License” and watched the hits roll in.    

But  he claims that some news organizations didn’t play by the rules and now things have become messy.

The recording did very well indeed. By the end of day one Cutaia’s video had been viewed more than 513,000 times. On day two things blew up with an additional 2.3 million hits and soon after the New York resident was receiving requests from news outlets – CBS, ABC, CNN, NBC, Reuters and AP – to use his footage.

But according to a lawsuit filed this week by Cutaia in a New York court, around November 18 Canada’s CBC aired the video online without permission, with a CBC logo as an overlay.

After complaining to CBC about continued unauthorized use, last month Cutaia was told by CBC that the company had obtained the video from CNN on a 10-day license. However, Cutaia claims that the video was used by CBC and its partners for many months, having been supplied to them by CNN who also did not have a license.

In his complaint, Cutaia seeks injunctions against both CBC and CNN to stop further unlawful use of his video. He also accuses the news outlets of “intentional and willful” copyright infringement and seeks appropriate damages.

Interestingly, the lawsuit also claims that both CBC and CNN violated the DMCA when the companies ‘liberated’ it from the YouTube system and offered it for viewing elsewhere.

CBC and CNN are also accused of distributing the video despite knowing that the copyright management information had been removed.

In closing, Cutaia seeks permanent injunctions against CBC and CNN, accuses them of varying degrees of copyright infringement, while demanding a jury trial to determine damages.

Here's the video: