15 Aug 2014

Premier League’s online goal ban a ‘scare tactic’

Football fans posting videos of goals on social media face a clampdown. Channel 4 News has spoken to the people who run the most popular goals Twitter account.

The Premier League has said it will clamp down on football fans recording and posting videos of goals on social media, but the team behind @FootballVines told Channel 4 News that the “scare tactics” will not stop the practice.

Channel 4 News has tracked down the company behind the most popular football goal Vines account.

@FootballVines, which has more than 500,000 followers, is ran by JNG Media, which is based near Milton Keynes.

“We are merely posting what we can find on the internet that we believe our audience will like. We do this for our love of the beautiful game, not profit”, a spokesperson for JNG Media told Channel 4 News.

New apps like Twitter’s six-second video-sharing app Vine make it simple for a fan to record a close-up of their television screen and quickly share a video of a goal online.

Videos that appear on the account, such as one of Ronaldo scoring in the Super Cup this week, are often retweeted thousands of times, before commercial rights holders can broadcast sanctioned highlights.

A JNG Media spokesman spoke exclusively to Channel 4 News, saying: “The threat of legal action on the uploaders of these Vines we believe to be a scare tactic as the reality of policing this is incredibly difficult.

“YouTube invested millions in preventing the proliferation of illegal videos on their channel but one can still find music videos, sport videos and even full films on their site.”

The company said it does not make money directly from the content of the videos, and that it has had no legal contact regarding its postings, but that it would adhere to guidance from the authorities.

“At no point whatsoever do we, as a team, upload the Vines ourselves … We are merely posting what we can find on the internet,” said the spokesperson.

The company has not yet filed accounts so it is unclear whether it has made any money from its websites and social media profiles.

“Vine as a medium is fascinating as most of the goals that are uploaded immediately after they are scored are in fact very poor quality, but the ability to watch them within the Twitter client on your mobile makes them incredibly viral,” the JNG Media spokesperson said.

Copyright questions

In recent seasons, and in particular during the World Cup, thousands of goals were posted using Vine.

The Premier League authorities last season sold the rights to enable fans to see goals as they happen for a fee to the Sun and the Times newspaper, which offers the service in their apps for a fee.

ITN, which produces Channel 4 News, also produces the service to provide the goal videos to these newspapers.

Speaking to the BBC, the Premier League’s director of communications Dan Johnson said: “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”.

But copyright lawyers are divided on whether posting such a short video is even against the law.

Christina Passmore, an intellectual property lawyer at HGF, told Channel 4 News: “I think it depends if the clip is thought to be a substantial part of the copyrighted clip. There have been cases in the EU that if you take a very small piece that could be infringment. They’re broadcasting these to their Twitter followers. I don’t think someone uploading goals would have a defence”.

But copyright lawyer Eleonora Rosati wrote in the IPKat forum: “Despite being arguable that copyright subsists in goal videos, it would seem equally arguable that those uploading them onto social media might be able to invoke the news reporting exception successfully”.

A Premier League spokesperson said: “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.”

“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.”

UPDATE: After publishing this story a @FootballVines/JNG Media company spokesperson sent the following Vine: