When Naked Anchor’s Attack!

In 2004 we reported on WOIO’s anchor Sharon Reed who, in a sweeps week stunt, participated in one of those Spencer Tunick mass nude photographs. Of course this was splashed all over the news at the time, and we covered it with a small still image from the broadcast in addition to Reed’s publicity still (at the time) from the station’s web site. A search through the archives indicates that we did another story around the same time about the broadcast which included a single framegrab (mildly NSFW) of the Body of Art segment.

Fast forward a few years and the naked anchor – fresh off an on air confession from a murderer – apparently wants to erase any evidence of her past “will strip for ratings” story off of the internet.

From: Reed, Sharon
Sent: Saturday, September 08, 2007 1:35 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: http://wizbangblog.com/content/2004/11/15/is-it-sweeps.php

The above referenced material and any other footage/pictures of kind are in direct violation of a shared copyright between myself and Raycom Media Corporation (owners of channel 19). The images were pirated from our television broadcast and never posted by us online. Please immediately remove all footage/pictures from your site. They are posted illegally on your site. Please also respond that you are in compliance.

Thank you for your anticipated cooperation. If you need further information, please respond with the appropriate full contact information and our corporate lawyers will be in touch.

Reporters don’t typically own the copyright to their stories; the station does, so her claim of ownership seemed a bit odd. Also the timing of Reed’s threats seemed odd so long after the original story. In that respect her demands reminded me of John Kerry’s former girlfriend recent request that we remove an old (and negative) story about here – a request I rejected. Knowing that she would probably be smart enough not to sign an affidavit attesting to copyright ownership if she did not in fact own such copyright, I responded that she should follow the proper procedure under the DMCA.

From: Kevin Aylward
Sent: Sun 9/9/2007 1:43 AM
To: Reed, Sharon
Subject: RE: http://wizbangblog.com/content/2004/11/15/is-it-sweeps.php

The single picture used from that broadcast clearly falls under the “fair-use” clause of US copyright law. Feel free to direct your lawyers here:

http://wizbangblog.com/tos/dmca.php

She responded that I, a mere commoner, was in no position to understand the complexities of fair-use.

From: Reed, Sharon
Sent: Sunday, September 09, 2007 9:45 AM
To: Kevin Aylward
Subject: RE: http://wizbangblog.com/content/2004/11/15/is-it-sweeps.php

You are misreading the fair use doctrine on several levels. Among them, you are exploiting a market that is legally exclusively ours. As you wish, our corporate lawyers will be in touch. Thank you for your prompt response.

I had no intention of ever mentioning this request, but Reed followed up her missive to me with similar tactics (inferring that lawyers had been contacted, etc.) with our hosting company. When the hosting company tried to work with her all she had to offer were general “you’re breaking the law” comments. She even wanted our hosting company to contact Google and have cached images removed…

Taking Ms. Reed at her word that Raycom Media lawyers would soon be coming after me I engaged Media Bloggers Association general council Ronald Coleman (proprietor of the excellent legal blog LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION® and a new general interest/politics blog Likelihood of Success) to assess the situation. He had a decidedly different take on Ms. Reed’s threats. Here’s what he sent back.

Ms. Sharon Reed
WOIO
1717 E. 12th Street
Cleveland, OH 44114Re: Wizbang® Blog

Dear Ms. Reed:

I am general counsel of the Media Bloggers Association, of which Kevin Aylward of the Wizbang blog is a member. In that capacity, I write as his attorney as well, with respect to your recent threatening communications to Mr. Aylward arising from his blog’s posting of certain images originally broadcast on WOIO. These were published in connection with Wizbang’s reporting about particularly flamboyant journalistic “choices” made by you as a television reporter, which you or WOIO evidently regret or wish would not be publicized further.

Your wish to un-ring the bells sounded by the singular performance depicted in these images, while understandable, is not a legitimate ground for you to prevent their reasonable use in connection with news reporting about that performance. Under § 107 of the Copyright Act, “the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies … for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting … is not an infringement of copyright.” Wizbang’s use of still images captured from the original broadcast is fair use because it (1) is transformative, (2) depicts a work that has already been published, and voluntarily, by the copyright holder, (3) is a very small fraction of the complete copyrighted work, and (4) does not lessen the market value of the original work. For this reason, Wizbang will not cease use of the images and, along with the Media Bloggers Association, will vigorously oppose any effort, legal or otherwise, to circumscribe Wizbang’s constitutional and legal rights.

In this vein, we also understand that you or another person at WOIO may have contacted, and perhaps communicated a threat to, Wizbang’s hosting provider. Any interference by you or your employer with Wizbang’s ability to continue its lawful business, such as by threatening third parties that provide services to Wizbang – including but not limited to its Internet hosting service – will be viewed dimly and may result in legal action against either or both of you. The effect of such action could be the imposition of legal sanctions on you and WOIO, including money damages, attorneys’ fees and costs as well as the imposition of a court injunction. Wizbang is one of the top 1,000 blogs in the world as measured by Technorati, so damages arising from interference with its business could be substantial.

Please direct any future communications regarding this matter to my attention.

Very truly yours,
Ronald D. Coleman

That, my friends, is a first-class smackdown… Thanks to Ron and Robert Cox at the Media Bloggers Association for coming to our defense!

And what are the images in question?

The first is the publicity still for Sharon Reed from the WOIO web site at the time of the “Body of Art” story, and the second is a small screencap from the broadcast, and the third, fourth and fifth are more screencaps from the piece.

Update: The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Entertainment blog indicates Reed has a new contract and an attorney. Apparently her attorney, Avery Friedman, is a well known civil rights attorney which is probably why he was not the one making contact with us. Frankly I’d be surprised if he had any knowledge of this.

Wizbang is not the only site Ms. Reed has targeted in her crusade to unring her “naked news” reporting. At nearly the same time she was contacting us she was threating an Ohio blog, The Blue Site. The details are here.

In the coup de grace, I’ve identified another site for Ms. Reed to target with her takedown requests – The New York Times.

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