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YouTube removes video criticizing Alaska Airlines for support of transgender bill

Lawyers for fired flight attendants said takedown was based on footage of Alaska's logo in video.

Updated: September 14, 2021 - 1:50pm

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Alaska Airlines sent YouTube a baseless copyright takedown request to squelch criticism from flight attendants it fired for objecting to the Seattle-based carrier's support of the federal Equality Act, according to the flight attendants' lawyers.

The First Liberty Institute said YouTube removed the video Friday and it immediately appealed. The video could have remained down for 10 business days while Alaska "substantiate[s] its copyright claim." A version on Rumble remained live.

YouTube corrected the takedown less than half an hour after First Liberty sent a press release Tuesday morning, according to a 12:05 p.m. Eastern email the public interest law firm shared with Just the News. YouTube said it had "completed processing your counter notification" and the three-and-a-half minute video was "no longer removed for copyright infringement."

Lacey Smith and an unnamed flight attendant filed U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints against Alaska Airlines for determining they violated harassment and "personal conduct" rules by questioning the company's support for the Democrat-led bill on the airline's internal discussion network. The bill would open women's spaces to biological males.

The carrier made its declaration the same day the U.S. House of Representatives approved the legislation, which remains stuck in committee in the Senate.

According to First Liberty, the company claimed "the inclusion of the airline's logo" in footage shot by the public interest law firm violates its copyright. First Liberty responded that inclusion of the logo was fair use under YouTube policy.

"In the U.S., works of commentary, criticism, research, teaching, or news reporting might be considered fair use, but it can depend on the situation," according to the policy.

Judges consider four factors when weighing fair use claims: the purpose and character of the use, particularly if it's for profit; the nature of the copyrighted work; how much of the work is used in relation to the whole; and the effect on the potential market for the work.

A Google support page suggests YouTube took Alaska at its word that it evaluated these factors before submitting the takedown request. "Courts have decided that copyright owners must consider fair use before they send a copyright takedown notice. Because of this, we often ask copyright owners to confirm they’ve done this analysis."

In its Tuesday morning statement, First Liberty chief legal officer Jeff Mateer said the airlines's "attempts to cover up its blatant discrimination against our clients only furthers our resolve to fight against religious discrimination wherever it exists."

Alaska did not immediately respond to a query by Just the News to respond to the allegation and provide its rationale for the alleged takedown request. A longer video by First Liberty on the EEOC complaints — which includes a background of an Alaska Airlines plane throughout an interview — remained live on YouTube while the shorter video was down.