Theme parks and the legality of publishing visitors' video: Part two
Published: March 10, 2010 at 9:22 AM
The Orange County Sheriff's Department has surveillance video of the incident, and might have video from tourists on the scene, too. Normally, under Florida law, material that sheriff's deputies collect in the course of an investigation becomes public record after the investigation is complete. And the sheriff's office already has gotten multiple requests for the video.
But, remember, SeaWorld has a legal ace up its sleeve here. Remember our discussion from earlier this year about the legality of posting theme park photos and videos online? Despite the fact that theme parks technically prohibit publication of images photographed or recorded within their parks, I wrote then that parks "absolutely love viral promotion from their guests." The only time that parks would take legal action to enforce their copyright and prevent an in-park photo or video from being publishing would be if it "portrays the park in a negative light."
You better believe that SeaWorld's going to exercise that here. The sheriff's office might be legally obligated to release the video after it complete its investigation. But SeaWorld's copyright claim on that video should be enough to prevent anyone who obtains that video from republishing it - online or elsewhere.
There is a "fair use" exemption to copyright law that might allow news organizations or even individual bloggers to publish a screen grab, or maybe even a very short excerpt from the video. I wouldn't do that, though, and I hope that no other news organization covering the theme park industry would, either. Let's allow Dawn's memory, family and fellow trainers some dignity.