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Pulling a Big Brother

When must a government agency put its foot down--use any power under its command--to stop someone from doing something that is just plain wrong? Should it do so even when the very act of lowering the boom is, in itself, ethically questionable?

The New Jersey Turnpike Authority is suing several video sites, including YouTube, for reshowing car crash footage recorded on with the turnpike's cameras, according to a UPI report.

The agency is using copyright laws to make the case. True, the NJTA hardly has the same obligations to nation's (or even the state's) citizenry as a federal agency. But I'm still curious why a government agency is asking a media outlet to remove content.

For taste and common decency, evidently.

"The video serves no worthwhile purpose and shows a tremendous lack of common human decency towards the family of the victim," the complaint read.

So is the NJTA overstepping its bounds? Or is it displaying a moral courage to do something that clearly needs to be done?

--Joab Jackson

Posted by Joab Jackson on May 29, 2007 at 9:39 AM

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Reader Comments

Mon, Jun 4, 2007 Darrell Heinrichs PLANO TX

NJTA is absolutely displaying the "moral courage to do something that clearly needs to be done!" It is about time that we learn the difference between news and pure sensationalism with no regard for the individuals involved.


Apart from issues of taste and common decency, there should be questions of disclosure--a serious automobile accident will likely be followed by a lawsuit, and publishing a video of the event with commentary might have a deleterious effect on a civil or criminal trial associated with the accident. Has a prospective juror seen the video?Clearly, publication on YouTube was an irresponsible act on the part of some employee who does not comprehend the banality of the act. The FOIA might come into play, if the act is defensible as some sort of whistle-blowing (was the accident a result of some defect for which NJTA is responsible?). Also, we might be confronted with the fact that speech is protected, even if it is unabashededly venal. For the Nth week in a row, the Lowest-Common-Denominator index is down again. Acquisition of the tape through a legal action (FOIA) would be one thing; publishing the video for "entertainment" quite another.Once that horse has left the barn, perhaps little can be done. Who knows what will emerge from the copyright question? I'm not dumb enought to try to predict that. But there is something apparent about YouTube that unfortunately is lost on most of its audience.

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