Station Video Spurs Lawsuit

Providence, R.I., television station WPRI-TV has filed suit against the Discovery Times Channel, claiming it is unlawfully using video footage taken at West Warwick’s Station nightclub fire.

TVL Broadcasting, which owns WPRI (Channel 12), seeks unspecified damages in its nine-page complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court March 6th, the Providence Journal said.

The footage was used in a Discovery Times documentary called “Decoding Disaster: Nightclub Nightmares,” which aired on the network February 26th and is scheduled to air again March 20-21.

Channel 12 was filming inside the club February 20, 2003, when sparks from a pyrotechnic gerb device ignited a fire that burned the venue down. The blaze killed 100 people and injured more than 200.

Ironically, Channel 12 was filming for a story about nightclub safety in the wake of the crowd crush at Chicago’s E2 club a few nights earlier. The Station happened to be owned by one of Channel 12’s reporters at the time, Jeffrey Derderian, who currently faces manslaughter charges with his brother and co-owner, Michael.

The footage shows the pyrotechnics that ignited the fire, people trying to flee, a pile of concertgoers tripping as they try to exit the building, and the outside of the burning building, the Journal said.

Channel 12 registered its copyright of the footage with the federal government in 2003, the lawsuit reportedly claims.

Discovery Times requested permission for the footage in October and was denied permission in writing, according to the suit. The documentary falsely implies Channel 12 gave permission, it alleges.

“WPRI-TV has restricted use of the footage out of respect for families and friends of those who lost their lives or were injured in the fire that evening,” Channel 12 said in a statement.

A spokesman for the Discovery Times Channel told the paper that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Channel 12 is itself being sued by survivors of the fire and the families of those who died, who claim the presence of a camera operator contributed to the deaths and injuries, the Journal said.