CNN instigates litigation

Offers to pay legal fees if Fox's KDFW(TV) sues NBC's KXAS-TV

CNN last week offered to help pay legal fees—up to $50,000—if Fox would sue the NBC-owned station in Dallas.

The unusual offer was made by CNN Newsource President Susan Grant to Fox Station Group head Mitch Stern after KXAS-TV Dallas on Nov. 8 used footage from Fox's local KDFW(TV) of a police chase involving a stolen, flaming 18-wheeler.

The NBC station admits it used the footage, taken from CNN's Newsource feed, without permission, but contends it falls under copyright law's "fair use" doctrine, given the importance of the footage to the story.

KXAS-TV, which says it gave both audio and visual credit to KDFW, is not a subscriber to CNN's Newsource service.

CNN has an additional gripe with the NBC station, contending that its own network bug was covered when KXAS-TV used the footage—except when the cable news network's familiar logo came up on one of those ever-present crawls at the bottom of the screen.

Grant said the offer was made to the Fox station following discussion with CNN attorneys, who "advised us that this is the best way to protect our affiliates. We're making this offer to uphold one of the earliest and most basic of our tenets: Don't use footage from another station without permission."

Grant said she believed it was the first time Newsource had made such an offer.

No word yet on whether KDFW will sue or whether Fox, an arch competitor of CNN on the cable news front, will take CNN up on its offer. The FAA is investigating whether KDFW violated airspace regulations when its news chopper filmed the truck.