7 September 2020CopyrightSarah Morgan

COVID-19 ‘Emmy awards’ prompts Television Academy suit

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences has taken an online platform to court, after discovering that its Emmy award was being used to promote an award show honouring countries that refused to lock down during the pandemic.

On Friday, September 4, The Academy—which confers the Emmy award in recognition of excellence and achievement in TV programming—accused Multimedia System Design (doing business as Crowdsource the Truth) of infringing its trademark and copyright rights.

In the suit, filed at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Academy described Crowdsource the Truth as a platform for conspiracy theories.

Crowdsource the Truth had allegedly reworked the Emmy award, a gold statuette molded in the shape of a winged figure holding an atom, to feature an image of a SARS-CoV-2 virus instead of the atom.

Then, the platform published the image to promote its Crony Awards which, according to the complaint, honoured countries that refused to lock down and/or minimised the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Defendant’s use of the infringing image for its ‘Crony Awards’ impermissibly associated the famous Emmy statuette and the Emmy awards with dangerous misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic,” added the complaint.

In response, the Academy served a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) copyright takedown notice, asking YouTube to remove the platform’s infringement.

After YouTube removed the video, the principal of Crowdsource the Truth Jason Goodman emailed Adam Sharp, president and CEO of the Academy, objecting to the takedown, according to the suit. The Academy added that Goodman claimed it had “no legitimate claim of copyright infringement” because the infringing image was “parody”.

The dispute then moved to Twitter, with the defendant using @csthetruth to accuse Sharp of being a “political operative” and abusing the DMCA takedown process to stifle “competition from real news”.

Crowdsource the Truth has also reportedly posted videos that spread falsehoods about Sharp and his father (journalist Roger Sharp), alleging that their professional careers were the products of “nepotism, corruption, and CIA-led propaganda campaigns”.

The claim added: “The Television Academies tried to resolve this matter without litigation, but once defendant filed the DMCA counter notification and refused to withdraw it, the Television Academies had no choice but to file this lawsuit to enforce their rights under the DMCA and otherwise seek relief through this action.”

The Academy noted that, despite the harm caused by the defendant, it is only seeking injunctive relief.

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