Reality Confounds Premier League's Attempt to Squash Web Video

Despite Legal Efforts and TV Rights, Fans Keep Posting Clips to Web

Published on .

Credit: Premier League

Half an hour was enough to show the Premier League that fighting the Internet won't be easy.

Sung-Yueng Ki's 28th-minute goal for Swansea in the season opener against Manchester United was available on Twitter's six-second video-sharing service Vine within minutes. The posts came a day after the Premier League said it will crack down on videos posted on the Internet.

"How on earth are you going to do this? It's almost going to be impossible," Stuart Fuller, director of commercial operations at online brand protection company NetNames, said in a phone interview. "What they are doing is trying to set some hard and fast rules."

While the Vine social network promotes homemade videos, users who have accounts can post content of their choice. Some accounts that post video from soccer games, such as "Football Vines," have hundreds of thousands of followers. Videos from Vine can be shared on Twitter or other social networks.

A Vine video showing a fan running on the pitch during a weekend match between Tottenham and West Ham United and kicking the ball over the goal post has more than 11.7 million views, or "loops," on one Vine account. Another clip showing bird droppings appearing to hit United winger Ashley Young was watched more than 14.1 million times.

The Premier League's current three-year TV rights package is valued at about $8.4 billion in domestic and overseas income. Last year it sold exclusive rights to broadcast game highlights online to News International, owner of the Times and Sun newspapers.

"The use of Vines and GIFs to show Premier League football is a breach of copyright, and we would encourage fans to use legitimate means to access this content, such as The Sun or The Times goal apps," the league said in an e-mailed statement. "We are working with social media providers to take down pirated clips and hope fans understand the need to maintain the investment model that produces the football they love."

The Premier League has been aggressive in tackling copyright infringements in recent years. It had a long battle with a U.K. pub owner that used foreign satellite decoders to broadcast matches in the U.K. and challenges websites that illegally stream matches online.

"It's a difficult balance for them to strike," Adam Leadercramer, a partner at Onside Law, who specializes in digital media, said by phone. "You don't want to appear overly aggressive or alienate your public, but at same time they need to protect their partners and intellectual property."

Many Vine users ignore a warning that they "may not post content that violates the rights of a third party, including copyright, trademark, privacy, and publicity rights."

Twitter received 9,199 requests, 34% more than the same time a year earlier, to take down content on Twitter and Vine from rights holders claiming copyright breaches in the four months through June 2014, according to the company's fifth Transparency Report in July.

A Twitter spokeswoman declined to comment on requests to remove content.

With technology evolving quicker than changes in the law it can be difficult for rights holders to enforce their rights, Mr. Leadercramer said. Companies like Twitter can avoid prosecution unless they receive specific details of specific posts under so-called "safe harbor" defense.

"Rights holders have to stay one step ahead of what's going on out there," he said. "It's tricky none of us know what the next development will be. The law isn't always at the same pace as technology."

--Bloomberg News

Most Popular
In this article: