Scottish Football Tries To Fine Kid For Filming Amateur Games

from the copyright-madness dept

Peter writes in to alert us to the latest example of copyright madness. It seems that over in Scotland, an amateur football (soccer, to us Americans) club, Buckie Thistle, would get a small group of about 500 fans attending each game, and one of them, a 16-year-old kid named David Smith would sit in the back of the stands and film the action. He would then post 10-minute clips to YouTube so those who missed the games could catch up. It built up a small, but decent, following. And that’s when the trouble began. The league’s secretary claims that Smith is violating the league’s copyright and has issued him a £5,000 fine:

“I was made aware that edited footage of games involving Buckie Thistle was being shown on YouTube without the prior approval of the league. Over the last three months, attempts were made to establish who was responsible, but I was advised that the person’s name was unknown.

“On meeting Mr Smith at Deveronvale, I asked him if he had permission to video this game, as it was the copyright of the league and no permission had been sought nor given. After brief discussion, he was advised by me that he may have to pay for the royalties for all videos taken and the sum could amount to £5,000.”

Now, there are all sorts of issues here, so let’s go through them one by one:

  1. The secretary of an amateur sporting league has no authority to issue any kind of fine, let alone a £5,000 one.
  2. As the article details, the league secretary is very confused if he thinks that the action on the field is copyright to the league. As a media lawyer notes in the article:

    THIS is not a question of copyright. The SFA does not own copyright on a football game. Copyright only applies to something such as a book, film, play etc that has been created as an act of labour by an individual or group of individuals. Men running around chasing a ball is not something that has been created.

  3. If there is any copyright here, it should be owned by David Smith. Again, as noted in the article:

    The irony is that David Smith owns the copyright to his own piece of film; he has put the effort into filming and editing it and when he puts it on YouTube, he is tacitly allowing people to watch it and even download it on to their computer. But if those individuals then attempted to sell it for commercial gain then he would be well within his rights to stop them as they would be breaching his copyright.

  4. This isn’t a question of competing with broadcasting rights. No one else is filming the games. It’s just the kid. Doing it as a labor of love to help promote the team he loves.
  5. The club itself is thrilled with Smith filming the games, and is upset that the league is trying to fine him.

The whole thing is yet another example of what happens when people hear about copyright and “ownership” all the time and assume that it gives them control over all sorts of things it does not.

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Comments on “Scottish Football Tries To Fine Kid For Filming Amateur Games”

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Anonymous Coward says:

WOuldn’t it all get fixed if the club issued the kid a broadcast license / journalist credentials?

The club should be able to control the outcome. The league commissioner is a dufus for not realizing that he cannot arbitrarily fine someone, apparently he doesn’t have any in house legal help.

I believe the correct Scottish term is “wanker”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s not illegal to film an NFL game from the stands yourself. If you broadcast it, you would not be violating any copyright held by the NFL for the game, but you would be in a legal conflict with network that owns the rights to broadcast the game.

If the kid’s soccer team had sold the broadcast rights, the kid would be in conflict with the broadcaster, not the league.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Sports events are not covered themselves by copyright.

There is no such thing as broadcast rights.
The reality is that the broadcaster pays for facilities.

The only rights the sports authority has are to physically prevent non-authorised parties from filming by excluding them from private property or erecting barriers.

See the following extract from the UK copyright office fact sheet.

“Types of work protected

1. Literary

song lyrics, manuscripts, manuals, computer programs, commercial documents, leaflets, newsletters & articles etc.
2. Dramatic

plays, dance, etc.
3. Musical

recordings and score.
4. Artistic

photography, painting, sculptures, architecture, technical drawings/diagrams, maps, logos.
5. Typographical arrangement of published editions

magazines, periodicals, etc.
6. Sound recording

may be recordings of other copyright works, e.g. musical and literary.
7. Films

broadcasts and cable programmes.

The Copyright (Computer Programs) Regulations 1992 extended the rules covering literary works to include computer programs.”

See – no sporting action in the list.

Michial Thompson (user link) says:

Not Copyright issues, but maybe Trademark

Obviously not a Copyright issue because even taking a photo of another photo is not a violation of Copyright and the photographer owns the rights to the new creation.

BUT it’s probably a violation of the Trademark for the league. And publishing it to the Web could be argued as unauthorized use of the Trademark…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not Copyright issues, but maybe Trademark

Yeah, I’m always confused when I see low quality video filmed from the stands. Is it from a fan taping the game? Or does the league just have a really terrible camera set up in a random seat? Why is it so confusing!?!?

Then again, you’re the moron (in a hurry?), so you would be the expert on these matters.

ethorad (profile) says:

Re: Not Copyright issues, but maybe Trademark

Really? Taking a photo of another photo isn’t a violation of the copyright of whoever took the original photo?

IANAL but it seems that if taking a copy (using a camera) of something that is protected by copyright (the original photo) doesn’t breach copyright what’s all the hassle around taking a copy (using a computer and the internet) of something else that is protected by copyright (some music)?

Burgos says:

Not Thinking

4. This isn’t a question of competing with broadcasting rights. No one else is filming the games. It’s just the kid. Doing it as a labor of love to help promote the team he loves.

And if the league people had any sense in them, they would have just exploited young Smith’s work: set up a nice page on a free host, link to the YouTube videos, pepper the page with adverts, and announce the URL during the games.

Why pay for a camera and post-production crew when somebody’s already doing the work for free, right?

DB (profile) says:


Not sure about Scotland, but in the US copyright exists from fixation in a tangible medium of expression. Taping or recording fixes the copyright in the tape, recording, etc., but not the live action. There was a parade case a few years back — broadcasting by one station was not infringed by a competitor independently shooting and also broadcasting.
Pro leagues (and big-bucks universities) can control recording because there is controlled access to the stadium. As part of your “contract” in getting a ticket, you’re not supposed to record. That’s the difference v. the parade. The parade was on the street.

Jimmy Ribbitt (user link) says:

So peple do have warped ideas of copyright

This is very similar to something that happened about a year ago when the parents of one skater videod their child at a competition and posted it on YouTube. US Figure Skating has the warped idea that they own the copyrights to every piece of figure skating footage on the planet, even videos made by parents of their children in competition. And this was not at a major competition, like Worlds or Olympics, this was a one of the smaller regional competitions in America, and there was a big bruhaha on several figure skating forums about this.

JPFife says:

I think you should clarify this article Mike. It is the Highland League making the claim of copyright not the SFA, as I’m sure the SFA have already issued a statement saying they have nothing to do with the situation. Fair enough, it’s Margaret Smillie in the Scotsman article making this confusing statement that the SFA can’t copyright something when it’s the Highland League making the claim, but it shouldn’t be repeated. And the Scotsman is hardly a reliable source anyway.

Copyright may be a tricky situation, but the Pars (Dunfermline Athletic) film their games and put them online for fans, and at the start of each of the highlights there is a copyright notice saying the games are copyright the Scottish Football League.

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