The 6 Second Vine, Football Broadcasting & the Premier League


The Premier League recently announced that it will be clamping down on Vine users recording Premier League footage (primarily on their mobile phone) and posting the recordings on social media channels including Twitter. The Premier League is concerned that as they have a variety of products that they auction to various companies in a large number of jurisdictions, consumers using Vine are infringing the Premier League’s copyright.

Vine is a social media network where users upload six second looping videos. Vine videos can then be shared between users on a variety of platforms. Vine is owned by Twitter. As well as selling live rights in the UK to Sky and BT, the Premier League sell a number of near live mobile and internet rights to a number of retail distributers. See my previous blog for further background. In the UK, those distributors are The Sun and the Times newspapers. Consumers  subscribe through access to apps and websites to view the premium, near live Premier League content. If consumers through Vine are able to make accessible the very goals and talking points that directly compete with the products that the Premier League has sold for around £20m over three years in the UK, this undermines the  value of the product.

As such, the Premier League explains that Vine users will be breaching the Premier League’s copyright by recording a live broadcast that is not meant to be accessible to the public via the internet or mobile app in each relevant jurisdiction. Dan Johnson, director of communications at the Premier League, explained that:

“You can understand that fans see something, they can capture it, they can share it, but ultimately it is against the law. It’s a breach of copyright and we would discourage fans from doing it. We’re developing technologies like gif crawlers, Vine crawlers, working with Twitter to look to curtail this kind of activity. I know it sounds as if we’re killjoys but we have to protect our intellectual property.”

Twitter responded with the following statement: “Vine users may not post content that violates the rights of a third party.” As such, the Premier League will no doubt be liaising with Vine and Twitter to ensure that any copyrighted materials are removed. As set out in previous cases including Murphy and QC Leisure (see background to that case here), such copyrighted materials are likely to be the Premier League graphics, logos, music, highlights and replays contained in the broadcast. The Premier League believes such unauthorised use should not be permitted to be distributed to the public. This is not the first time that the Premier League has litigated on such issues. The League had cases pending against YouTube and took pub landlords including Karen Murphy and decoder card distributors (like QC Leisure) to the European Courts to enforce their exclusive broadcasting agreements.

The next step will be to see whether Twitter accounts like these which openly advertise links to football related Vines will receive letters from the Premier League or communication from Vine to remove infringing content as a crack down on a new form of unauthorised digital rights distribution starts afresh.

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