Websites told to remove ex-BP chief’s deposition video

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A federal judge has ordered that video clips of a deposition former BP chief Tony Hayward gave last month in ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil-spill litigation be removed from the online sites of News Corp.’s iPad-only newspaper The Daily and Google Inc.’s YouTube.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sally Shushan’s order dated July 5 says that release of the video may violate a previous court order. The clips were posted July 2 and 3 on thedaily.com and youtube.com.

The Associated Press published a story on July 1 detailing what Hayward said in the deposition he gave to lawyers for the Justice Department, the plaintiffs suing BP and states harmed by last year’s oil spill off Louisiana. The story was based on transcripts of the deposition.

Shushan’s order did not address publication of text from the deposition.

The Daily is a newspaper published only on Apple’s iPad tablet devices. It also operates a website that includes marketing information, a blog and selected video clips. YouTube is a video sharing site on which users can post videos. The Daily’s website contains a link for sharing its video via YouTube.

The order appeared to be directed only at The Daily. In a statement yesterday, The Daily said it believed the order was “an extraordinary example of prior restraint” and it had no intention of taking down the video clips from either site “until we’ve had the opportunity to present our case to the court.”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story. Video that is taken down by one user sometimes is reposted by another.

In the sworn deposition taken over several days starting June 6 in London, Hayward fought off accusations that he sought to prop up the company’s falling share price through his subordinates’ daily briefings on the Gulf oil spill, and that the firm failed to keep its promise to share its data on how much crude was spewing into the sea.

The deposition was part of ongoing litigation against the British firm and other companies involved in the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon disaster. The U.S. government is among the parties suing BP, and is expected to impose fines for Clean Water Act violations potentially totaling billions of dollars. Hayward is considered a critical witness, since he headed BP during and after the disaster until he was ousted in October.

Eleven workers were killed when the rig exploded. According to government estimates, some 206 million gallons of oil spewed from a well a mile beneath the sea.

Tags: , ,