What’s so bad about a car crash video?

Writing at eWeek, Steve Bryant says that the New Jersey Turnpike Authority is suing YouTube because video from the agency’s security cameras has been posted to the site showing a car crashing into a concrete barrier at a toll booth and bursting into flames. The driver — who according to one report had just been released from hospital after a seizure — was killed.

turnpike-crash.jpgA couple of things strike me about this case. It’s one thing for the Highway Authority to argue that the posting is a copyright violation, since it owns the footage, and obviously the agency is well within its rights to send YouTube and other sites like LiveLeak.com and Break.com a “notice and takedown” letter asking that it be removed. At the same time, however, doing so is — as others have discovered — a little like playing Whack-A-Mole, since new versions continually pop up elsewhere (including here and here). If anything, trying to take them all down makes them even more valuable.

The other thing that bothers me is that the agency seems to be arguing that watching this video is somehow wrong, or unsavoury in some way. Really? If it is, then so is watching the TV news on just about any given night. If slowing down to look at a car accident is wrong, then we are all wrong.