Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The 'Fair Use' Doctrine: ABC Sues Self-Styled Media Watchdog for Using the Network's News Clips at His 'Media Seminars.' (David Bedein)

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

The 'Fair Use' Doctrine: ABC Sues Self-Styled Media Watchdog for Using the Network's News Clips at His 'Media Seminars.' (David Bedein)

Article excerpt

David Bedein, a self-styled media watchdog who seeks to protect Israel's image abroad, has been socked with a $1 million lawsuit by ABC-TV for using the network's news clips in what he has called a "media seminar."

The suit involves Bedein's public relations company, Israel Resource, which operates out of a room on the second floor of Israel's Government Press Office in Jerusalem.

About four years ago, Bedein began showing tapes of American network tv footage on the Arab-Israeli conflict -- specifically the Palestinian intifida in the West Bank -- to academics, journalists, and average Israeli citizens curious about how their country was being portrayed in the United States.

The screenings, for which Bedein charged the equivalent of $3-per-person admission, featured the previous week's news clips as they appeared on all four major networks -- ABC, NBC, CBS and CNN. Bedein says he got the clips by taping directly off a satellite dish, or from Stateside friends who would rush videotapes via courier service to Israel.

Among the 30 to 50 or so people in attendance at Bedein's weekly gatherings were correspondents for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek, the pro-Arab Palestine Press Service, and other news organizations, as well as the broadcast media themselves.

In addition to screenings, Bedein helped visiting journalists obtain hard-to-get information on a moment's notice. ABS's Ted Koppel even enlisted Bedein's help once when the producers of Nightline needed some information on PLO terrorist activities in the West Bank.

Shortly after the Palestinian uprising started, ABC began objecting to the screenings when Bedein attacked the network's portrayal of Israel as unbalanced and anti-Semitic. ABC filed for an injunction in an Israeli court asking Bedein to stop, and he refused.

Finally, in January 1988, a suit was filed, but only now is it coming to trial. After numerous delays, a pre-trial hearing in Jerusalem's District Court has tentatively been set for April 26. ABC is demanding just under $1 million, or $8m600 for each of Bedein's 108 screenings in the last two years.

"ABC is trying to create an international precedent, and I'm not going to let them do it," declared Bedein, a 42-year-old Orthodox Jew from Philadelphia who emigrated to Israel in 1970, and now lives in the West Bank settlement of Efrat with his wife and four children.

"The 'Fair Use' statute says you can use material for the purpose of criticism," he added, citing an interpretation common to both U.S. and Israeli courts. "ABC considers me dangerous. They've been nasty in their reporting about Israel, and they've been inaccurate. The other networks have responded more professionally and seriously. They like [the screenings] because Israelis were seeing their product."

ABC's lawyers in New York failed to return messages, but Dean Reynolds, the ABD-TV correspondent in Tel Aviv, stated simply tha Bedein "was stealing our broadcasts and charging admission. …

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