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July 30, 2007

The Man Who Could Kill YouTube

...Bob Tur, a pilot and photojournalist, hovered above the unfolding chaos in his helicopter, along with his copilot, his camerawoman wife, his lawyer, and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. Fifteen years later, he still recalls the details of the scene with the precision of a war memory. There was Larry Tarvin, who was pulled from his truck and kicked in the ribs, shoulder, and face. That's when the shots started. Tur's chopper began taking hits as the throng below pummeled another trucker, Reginald Denny, with a cement block, a tire iron, and a fire extinguisher.

Tur knew this was coming, he says, having spent weeks in advance of the Rodney King verdict interviewing gangbangers, church leaders, whomever, asking what would happen if the jury acquitted four white cops. The Crips told Tur they'd try to kill as many white people as possible. So when the call came at 3:15 p.m. on April 29, 1992, Tur, whose fledgling news-video company was pioneering helicopter coverage of breaking events, knew where to go. He arrived on the scene before anyone else and recorded many of the images people now associate with the L.A. riots.

Over the years, he estimates, the Denny tape has generated about $5 million in licensing fees. But Tur has spent almost an equal amount filing lawsuits to protect his content. All of which led to the day last spring when he happened upon an article in The Wall Street Journal about an upstart video-sharing Website whose users were uploading clips of dogs skateboarding and grandmothers belching and, oh yeah, copyrighted news footage. Tur logged on and, after two clicks, watched his Denny video. A few weeks later, like a small bottle tossed before the mob of big entertainment companies like Viacom began their battle for control of digital media, Tur became the first person to sue YouTube for copyright infringement...More?


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