Jordan Segall, Steve Perry on the Impact of the 'Other Rodney King Case' on Copyright Law

On the 25th anniversary of the Rodney King beating in Los Angeles, Munger, Tolles & Olson attorneys Jordan D. Segall and Steven M. Perry published an article in the Daily Journal reviewing the impact of a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the man who videotaped the beating of Mr. King.

On March 3, 1991, George Holliday videotaped Mr. King’s beating and subsequent arrest by LAPD officers. As the beating became the most-talked-about news story of the year, portions of Mr. Holliday’s videotape aired on every major network and cable news channel. In 1993, Mr. Holliday sued CNN and the major networks for copyright infringement.

According to Messrs. Segall and Perry, the lawsuit warranted that U.S. District Court Judge Irving Hill decide a novel question: “Did the First Amendment independently preclude Holliday's copyright claim?” In a landmark decision in favor of the defendants, Judge Hill became the first judge to rule explicitly that the answer to that question is “yes.” The court held that in cases involving “exceptional” visual works, “where words cannot serve the democratic purposes,” the First Amendment provides an independent defense to a copyright infringement claim.

Mr. Segall is a litigation associate in Munger Tolles’ Los Angeles office.

Mr. Perry represents clients in a wide array of industries in complex commercial, antitrust, tort and intellectual property matters. He represented defendants ABC and CBS in Holliday v. CNN.