When football’s Premier League first announced that it intended to clamp down on fans who post clips of goals via video sharing service, Vine, it re-invigorated a copyright debate…which we jumped into with both feet.
You can see their point. The rights-holder sells the rights to broadcast a sporting property – in the case of football, to Sky Sports and BT Sport, for the not inconsiderable sum of £3bn.
Anyone can film a goal on their phone or device and share it across social networks in less than a minute; either watching live or on TV. In the cold light of the law, it is breaching copyright but it’s a grey area and one that has significant public relations implications.
There might have been a bit of public posturing with that initial shot across the bows; less a threat to fans and more a way of the Premier League illustrating to media partners that they look like they take it seriously.
What they – and any rights-holder for that matter – are up against is the power in numbers and the frightening ease and speed of technology. It takes a single second to retweet and in minutes, that Vine video has spread to millions.
It’s incredibly difficult to cram the genie back in the bottle on the basis that anyone can share content online in less time than it takes to get indignant. Chasing individuals legally is a risky strategy that won’t be popular and could generate awful publicity.
It was perhaps no surprise then that according to The Lawyer magazine, the Premier League has since confirmed that it won’t sue individuals who share videos showing live footage of football games. Instead, the stance will be to be more pro-active in getting unofficial clips taken offline.
You imagine that going after the big wins by tackling those on Vine with the largest audiences will be the easiest tactic – Viners who are sharing live footage won’t want to desert their account that has millions following it. But people shutting down and popping up with another email address is the reality.
How does this affect cricket? In theory, the England and Wales Cricket Board could issue a similar, public point of view but instances are much smaller than in football and the effort probably doesn’t justify the outcome.
For cricket, clips are less of a threat than illegal live streaming of games. Back in 2012, Giles Clarke, the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, told the world that the ECB had closed down 700 pirate websites providing illegal streams of matches, citing it as the biggest danger to cricket.
Choosing your battles and opponents is a lesson to learn and the case of Rob Moody known as Robelinda2 on YouTube comes to mind. Rob’s a cricket librarian for the digital age having painstakingly transferred thousands of hours of old cricket matches from VHS to CD which are then uploaded to YouTube as clips.
To say what he’s doing is popular would be something of an under-statement. Over 140 million views of his channel suggest he’s tapped into a joy for archived cricket moments that no-one else is properly servicing.
Now, it’s a not-for-profit hobby for him; an obsession perhaps might be closer to the truth but admirable and the point is no-one else is doing it. hey won’t agree but I believe rights-holders and broadcasters have an obligation to use the content they produce rather than clinging on to it like a miserly Scrooge.
Is Rob infringing copyright? He’s had a range of videos terminated from his YouTube Channel after action by the England and Wales Cricket Board which is depressing as it is entirely missing the point.
Either have a free-to-air YouTube channel with past cricketing matches from years gone by that no-one else is showing – or better still, show it on the BBC – or collaborate in some way with Rob who has already assembled this popular body of work.
To return to the Vine-yard for a moment, personally these micro-videos on an annoying loop don’t remotely appeal but they’re a niche but popular and growing part of the social media cosmos and as a Twitter-owned company, it’ll be intriguing to see if or how they are policed in future.
But are these Vines really such a big deal? Part of it is down to confidence in your own product. A wobbly, sometimes out of focus clip of a goal, wicket or try on a six-second loop might be a momentary thrill but it hardly competes with professionally packaged, live action of the entire match from Sky or BT Sport.
Besides, there’s also the point that sharing these moments of drama or comedy don’t dilute but actually strengthen a sporting media property. Far better to be talked about, if the goal you’re after is building an audience and enticing new customers.
For the savvy business-minded, this copyright debate might represent an opportunity. Create something affordable with excellent editorial content that is technologically robust (ahem, NetFlix) and you’re on to a winner.
Sky could easily produce a selection of Vines of their own and ping them round the internet to whet the appetite and combat those that record and distribute at will.
You could ask: where does it stop with copyright ringfencing? We are all surrounded by still and moving images perpetually. How often do we have permission to photograph and share an image we like?
The answer is all the time surely because we took the photograph and so we own the copyright? Ah, but what if we deliberately or unknowingly infringed copyright with something else in the photo or video?
There are a myriad of everyday examples where strictly speaking, copyright might be infringed. Does the fact that billions of pounds have been spent on sports rights make the copyright any more valid than a selfie with an image in the background?
In 2013, the media company Buzzfeed did a snappy video called ‘What Happens on the Internet in 60 Seconds.’
At the time it was created, they reckoned 100 hours of video go up on YouTube and over six billion photos a month on Facebook.
The figures in the video below are only going to go one way and that is stratospherically north. Embracing rather than fighting this irrepressible trend is likely to be a smarter strategy.
As a creator of original content, I’m a champion of copyright on the one hand but believe that there’s a balance to be had and much of it is down to common sense and understanding the technology trends being embraced.
Photography is an area where copyright has long been flouted shamelessly. The images on Cricket Yorkshire come from a variety of sources from our own to paid-for stock imagery with a few creative commons licenced Flickr photos for good measure.
I’ve watched with a degree of frustration as some websites and blogs have benefited from the best photography out there…by nicking it. Asking (or buying) permission to use an image is both the right and legal thing to do. You might ask what the difference is between this and the copyright of sports but there feels like there is a distinct difference.
With protection of sports media rights, they’re still getting what they paid for but look like they’re manically trying to safeguard what’s theirs all a bit unnecessarily.
To those that pinch photos, using a photo and slapping a copyright symbol and crediting the original source doesn’t negotiate the fact you still don’t have permission. Although it’s revealing to note that Getty Images made 35 million photos free to use back in March in an effort to combat piracy.
The latency and development of social media catches out even those with large pockets and infinite resources when it comes to copyright. The best advice? Ride the wave, don’t get caught out and come up spluttering.