A judge in the US has ruled that Facebook Live videos that are streamed publicly are considered to be "fair use", meaning that the owner of the footage cannot try to claim copyright infringement if other bodies, such as the media, seek to use the content.
In May 2016, Kali Kanongataa, from Carmichael, California, made history by being the first to livestream the birth of a baby when he filmed the birth of his son, which his partner Sarah Dome agreed to. After filming for half an hour, Kanongataa realised that the stream was set to "public", rather than "friends only", but he didn't want to stop the video once it had been started, so he left the stream as it was.
Over 120,000 people ended up watching the live stream, and 22 seconds of the footage was later picked up by ABC and aired on the Good Morning America morning television show because the show's anchors felt that the live stream was a "socially significant phenomenon".
And since ABC has a partnership with Yahoo, the website also hosted the footage on its site, plus a screenshot and a short video clip from the stream were used on the Women's Health magazine website.
Kanongataa wasn't happy about this and in September 2016, he decided to sue ABC, Yahoo, Rodale, COED Media Group, iHeartMedia and Cox Communications in several separate lawsuits (read the lawsuit against ABC and Yahoo) for copyright infringement because none of the media organisations sought his permission or consent to publish the video or any screenshots from his live stream.
However, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan has ruled in a court hearing that use of the video footage is indeed fair use, and as such, Kanongataa's lawsuit must be thrown out, according to Ars Technica. This means that ABC, Yahoo, NBC and COED Media are off the hook. Kaplan has yet to issue a decision about the lawsuit against Rodale, and the lawsuit against Cox Communications remains pending in a different district.
No similar cases have been filed in the UK, and in fact some people seem to enjoy the attention garnered from livestreaming births, such as Ysis Lorenna, a Welsh woman who live streamed her labour on 9 February on Facebook Live for YouTube channel Channel Mum, which has over 32,000 likes on its Facebook Page. Nonetheless, it is likely that this same ruling could be passed in the UK and other countries should citizens try to claim copyright on content they choose to stream live over social media.
Interestingly, the real reason Kanongataa is so upset about the live stream of his son being used by the media is because the story about the live stream led to Child Protective Services (CPS) taking the baby away from Kanongataa and Dome one day after the child's birth.
The couple went on popular newsmagazine TV programme Inside Edition shortly after the birth, complaining that CPS took the baby away because one of Kanongataa's previous partners made domestic violence allegations against Kanongataa and told CPS that the child was in danger – allegations Kanongataa strongly denies.
"I was really, really surprised, like 'Oh my gosh, how could you do this?' For everyone to tune in and watch me have a baby, shocking," Dome told Inside Edition. "I just had a baby, it was a beautiful moment so I can't be mad too long, but he's going to hear about it for the rest of his life."