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Can you share sports videos online? Premier League says no, but it’s not clear why

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What spoilsports. Premier League officials are marking the kick-off of another soccer season by warning fans that they better not share goal highlights on social media because “it is against the law.”

According to a BBC report, the League understands than fans want to share their favorite game moments, but that it’s determined to follow the World Cup’s example and put a stop to this all the same.

“We’re developing technologies like gif crawlers, Vine crawlers, working with Twitter to look to curtail this kind of activity,” a spokesperson told the BBC.

Even by the standards of intellectual property-obsessed sports leagues, this is pretty stupid. First off, it’s a slap in the face to fans who want to share their passion in a way that doesn’t seem to harm the economic interest of the league. After all, how do Vine clips — which are only six seconds long — undercut fans’ desire to see games?

In case, you’re unfamiliar with Vine, here’s a clip I just made of a highlight from Major League Baseball — which I can post to Twitter or websites like this one:

[protected-iframe id=”c05878d15131b7b19588cd908559cbbb-14960843-34118173″ info=”” width=”600″ height=”600″ frameborder=”0″]

The point is that the clip is so short that it can hardly take the place of a game or a TV highlights show.

In the case of the Premier League, though, the hardline against video sharing is not just a poor business strategy, but one that is legally questionable at best.

That’s because, while a sports broadcast is protected by copyright, a six-second clip probably is not. In the United States at least, a court would likely say the League would have no claim due to the principle of fair use or because the clip is “de minimus.”

Unfortunately, it sounds like the Premier League is going to unleash a takedown campaign all the same, and that Twitter will be willing to go along with it. In a statement, it told BBC that “Vine users may not post content that violates the rights of a third party.”

I asked Twitter how this will apply in the U.S., and the company says it informs those whose videos are removed about the process for filing a counter-notice under the Copyright Act:

“Twitter responds to formal reports of alleged copyright infringement as outlined in Section 512 of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and provides instructions on how an affected party can appeal a removal by submitting a complaint counter-notice. We send all received reports to Chilling Effects, who posts them publicly, and report the number of DMCA notices and counter-notices we receive in our semi-annual transparency report.”

This story was updated at 1:35pm ET to include Twitter’s statement.

11 Responses to “Can you share sports videos online? Premier League says no, but it’s not clear why”

  1. Justin Lewis

    Lots of sports’ attention is garnered in two ways. The scoreline which is just information and as we know that just wants to be free. It’s a fact that can be recounted and shared and beyond the hot new doctrine there’s little to restrict the score of a game being shared.

    The second draw of attention is around the action directly related to changing that scoreline or points of contention. Highlights shows are about the contention mostly because it’s hard to build a show formula around a score that might not happen.

    A six second video clip, or even a two second gif, of those points of contention or scoring action seriously challenge the value of highlights or more often timeshifted rights. You’d find it hard to avoid the final outcome of a sporting event online but that makes you more likely to watch how that outcome came about. Getting hit left right and centre by vines and gifs of every notable point really diminishes that motivation.

    Do people really tune in for the views of a few has-beens/pundits? Because that’s all that’s left once the smallest atoms of action have already been seen. Why would you settle for a few pundits you might not care for when you have a world of armchair pundits, current players, and former stars to converse with around a vine. Included in the main conversation rather than the second screen side conversation around live and highlight broadcasts.

    Is it right, smart to target this trend? Maybe. Maybe not. It’s a media shift that needs reconciling somehow.

    A side note. There is a difference between supporters and fans. A person can be a team’s most fervent fan but never practically support that team’s efforts. Cheering on twitter doesn’t pay the bills. Buyng a TV sports package subscription does pay the bills. I’m certain many in the sports industry actively differentiate between the two kinds of spectator.

    • Thanks for the comment, Justin Lewis. Yes, teams need more than just the good will of fans to pay the bills — but there are many ways for a fan to offer financial support, beyond buying a cable package. (Buying a pint in the pub where the game is playing, purchasing a jersey or attending a match all contribute directly or indirectly to the team’s bottom line)

      Also, I’m not sure a flood of Vines and gifs really takes away from a live match. I’ve never decided to watch social media instead of a game (though maybe others have)

  2. danhughes

    There really is no way de minimus would apply here. 6 random second of a game… sure…. maybe. But a goal. Perhaps the only goal in a 90 minute game? You could easy argue that 1 goal is worth millions.

  3. They make money out of those clips , they sell more than just entire games. Weather it’s 15 mins or 2 mins with just the goals. Does a single poem in a book has the right to be copyrighted ? Or a single picture in an album? So the law should be on their side even if it’s not a goal just a foul or a pass and even if it’s 1-2 seconds not 6.It’s reasonable under current laws.
    That’s not to say that i support copyright in any way , better none than what we got.

  4. As News UK have spent millions getting exclusive rights to premier league goals on mobile devices in the UK, it is perfectly understandable why Premier League would want to protect this revenue stream. 6 seconds in baseball may be nothing, but a wondergoal in a 1-0 win in PL is valuable.

    • Thanks for the comment, shep. Yes, News UK has spent a fortune to get those exclusive rights, and the company is understandably concerned about protecting them. But spending money does not entitle them to define copyright in a broader fashion than what the law allows. Intellectual property owners often want to control every single aspect of the brand or product, but doctrines like fair use (or fair dealing in the UK) prevent them from doing so — to the benefit of the rest of us!