19 September 2014 by

Football fans could be shown the Red Card…

With the start of the new football season, the Premier League has warned that it will be clamping down on fans who post unofficial clips from televised matches on social media. This tough approach follows a summer during which large numbers of unauthorised Vine clips (short, looping videos) from the Brazilian World Cup were shared on various social media platforms.

What is the issue and what did the Premier League say?

In a statement, the Premier League said: “The use of Vines 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.”

This warning from the Premier League highlights the problem of increasingly sophisticated technology that now enables fans to easily upload images and videos to social media, and the impact this can have on commercial deals. Sky Sports and BTSport reportedly paid a record £3bn to show three seasons’ worth of live Premier League football. With such lucrative television rights at stake, it’s no surprise that the Premier League has decided to tackle the issue head on and in a very public manner.

What defences/exceptions might apply?

Broadcast footage is generally protected by copyright, which automatically arises on the creation of original content. However, users of social media can potentially use the defence of ‘fair dealing’; as long as they can show that the copyrighted work was used for a legitimate aim and was a fair and proportionate use for the purpose of reporting current events.

There is also a new exception to copyright protection that is due to come into force in October. This could provide a defence against any infringement claims from rights holders, as it gives a third party a general qualified right to use quoted copyrighted works. It may be possible to rely on this new exception to justify the posting of sporting clips online, provided there is sufficient acknowledgment of the source. The courts will ultimately have to make it clear exactly what is acceptable, and what is not.

If you decide to post online videos of your favourite goals, you should think carefully about whose content you are posting. If you infringe copyright, you are at risk of being pursued by the rights-holder. It is becoming increasingly common for owners of lucrative intellectual property rights to take formal action against persistent offenders. So football fans beware!

If you have any questions relating to copyright or other intellectual property infringement, please contact Marc Thurlow on 020 7288 4768 or marcthurlow@boltburdon.co.uk.

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