Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Premier League, Jealous Of Viacom, Sues YouTube As Well

from the sue-sue-sue! dept

Nick writes in to let us know that the Premier League, in the UK (football/soccer, depending on where you are) has decided to sue Google/YouTube for copyright infringement. Nick has his own analysis, but there are a number of interesting (or silly, depending on your perspective) things about the case. First off, it was almost exactly two years ago that we were surprised to hear the Premier League suggest that it needed to sue fans who were streaming its games online (pre-YouTube days). Here were fans who were so interested in following what was going on that they'd watch games online and help promote it to others who had no way of watching the games, and the best the Premier League could do was threaten to sue? That seemed backwards. Last year, the Premier League popped up again, complaining about videos on YouTube. However, while again it seemed like bad marketing to go after fans who are promoting your sport, we figured it was at least a positive that the Premier League wasn't so silly as to blame YouTube for the actions of its users. Apparently, we spoke too soon.

If anything, this is probably a reaction to Viacom's $1 billion lawsuit against Google/YouTube. The Premier League figured it might get a piece of that, or at least hope that Google would be willing to settle. Of course, Google's defense should be the same as it was for Viacom. The Premier League makes one different argument -- which is that it tried to use the anti-piracy tools provided by Google, and they didn't work. It's hard to see how the fact that the tools don't work very well is illegal. There is no magic bullet that can stop unauthorized copies -- so every "anti-piracy" tool won't work entirely. That's hardly something to sue over. The other difference is that the Premier League is looking to have the case declared as a class action suit, so that all copyright holders can get at Google in one shot. If this succeeds, then it seems likely that it will shut down YouTube, destroying one of the most effective promotional vehicles the Premier League has had in years. It's hard to see how that's beneficial for anyone.

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  • identicon
    IronChef, 4 May 2007 @ 6:25pm

    They don't understand the ROI

    The more content that is available, the more people have the freedom of choice. Stifiling choice is inherently undemocratic. Given the challenges brought on by technology, I think the whole IP schebang needs to be reviewed. Honestly now, can Premier League really show a tangible loss in sales from fans sharing parts of a soccer game, and providing it with worldwide exposure? Come on. In marketing, Branding is everything. Anything that extends your brand beyond the borders of the originating country is a great, and should be, treasured asset!

    When will these guys get it? No amount of money dumped into a marketing budget will have the same ROI as giving out a freebie every now and then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Vincent Clement (profile), 5 May 2007 @ 5:21am

      Re: They don't understand the ROI

      Ever notice how these old-business model entities keep attacking their own customers (and potential future customers)? In this day and age, where many businesses offer points and rewards for repeat business, these behemoths are so worried about limited short-term gains, they they have no qualms with losing long-term customers. And they wonder why their businesses are hurting?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sean, 4 May 2007 @ 7:17pm

    They don't understand...

    I agree with IronChef, I didn't watch the Premier League as I live in the US until I saw clips of it on YouTube, then I ordered channels that provided the games. They got money from me because someone posted a few goals from some of the games on YouTube. The marketing is good, they just don't see it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2007 @ 8:55pm

    Chances are they do see it, but this is an easy source of money. It's the same thing as patent trolling. Until the laws are fixed so they aren't abused they are going to happen.

    It's just like an exploit in a video game. Easy money is good money. In these cases, it's also stupid money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ChurchHatesTucker, 4 May 2007 @ 10:35pm

    AC is spot on.This is a short-term revenue push, and not a long-term strategy. All too common, unfortunately.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jaz, 4 May 2007 @ 11:38pm

    It's hard to know why the Premier League would use a short-term strategy and gain a few extra bucks.The amount of money they make off tv contracts is astronomical....
    Boggle's the mind with what they're doing...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mike allen, 5 May 2007 @ 12:41am


    The football leagues claim they own the copyright to the films how if i make a movie I own the copyright if I chose to show that movie on you tube that is my buisness and nothing to do with anyone else. How can these dynosaurs even suggest that they own copyright to my work.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Phil, 5 May 2007 @ 4:59am

    Great Soccer

    Soccer is the most popular sport in the world, except here in the U.S. The U.S. should be the obvious target for market share growth. Given the lack of quality professional soccer here and that the Premier League is considered by most to be the top soccer league in the world, how can any reasonable business not see that this is free advertising and can only be good for the sports long-term expansion.

    Anyone remember how popular the NHL use to be, before they denied a generation of kids access to free Hockey on TV. The quick money from "cable only" contracts (before the days of cable in every household) basicly denied a generation of potential hockey fans from being exposed to this great game. And no amount of rule changes will bring them back.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Someon, 5 May 2007 @ 11:27am

    A world without youtube... are you serious...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sam, 5 May 2007 @ 2:49pm

    interesting comments...

    but i don't think you guys get it...

    point #1) companies have a right to be stupid/smart, meaning a company can promote, or not promote as they see fit.

    point #2) companies "own" their content, meaning they can have it posted when/where they choose. this means you can't rip off their content and post it where 'you' might want it.

    point #3) if google is going to claim that youtube meets certain criteria to be covered under certain legal statues, google is going to have to develop the technology/processes to follow the law. i think the statute states take down my material when i tell you to, not "i have to somehow look through the millions of videos, trying find mine, and then tell you"...

    point #4) if google can't provide easy/6 sigma tools that really work, then i as the owner of the content shouldn't be burdened, regardless if youtube customers pitch a bitch

    point #5) if google can't create the technology to do this, shut the damm thing down, and kiss the $1.6 billion away!

    lesson learned... if you're going to implement a service/technology, you need to be able to accommodate the owners of the content you might piss off..

    remember, people bitched about napster, and said alot of the same arguments, about it being a tool for marketing, allowing users to find new/different music/etc....

    and it got killed/shut down!!

    you gotta follow the law... or get new laws created, and follow them!


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Paul`, 5 May 2007 @ 9:15pm


      The thing is google does follow the law. Half the tidme the contect providers ask to have the wrong stuff taken down anyway. They don't have a clue and wonder why their buissness is hurting

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      mike allen, 5 May 2007 @ 11:54pm

      Re: sams comment

      The way i see your argument and the football leagues is this If I take film of my kid kicking a ball about then put that on you tube the football league could then say it is football we own the copyright my answear is bull**** then to follow the argument to its ilogical conclution is that any film taken by anyone then any third party could then say that they own the copyright.
      Wrong under British law the person who takes a picture either motion or still owns the copyright.
      Now if the picture is from a Television broadcast then that is infringment of copyright but it is not the football leagues job to get that sorted out it is the Tv companies job they own the copyright. So the league is really barking up the wrong tree here.
      As to the viacom suit then as I have stated before I beleave Google/youtube were set up as there is enough evidence in my eyes to suggest Viacom got their employees to put the clips up with a view to sue you tube.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    IronChef, 5 May 2007 @ 9:19pm


    Extremely impressed, especially at the reference to Six Sigma. Your right on... Companies should measure the quality and quantity of outputs via LOE (Level of Effort) analysis. Only then, make a determination of if the inputs are worthwile. :-) The thing is that most of these companies who own the IP don't take the time to understand the technology. The business landscape is changing before our eyes, and folks who recieved a MBA even 3 years ago are applying knowledge then, and it's like stale bread. The folks with any say in the business process are trying to apply their offline skillset to an online world, and this is where the gap resides...

    Do we blame the companies or the decisionmakers? I have no answer, but this is where we need to be assured that the people who CAN pull the trigger understand the new Web 2.0 world we live in... Content is now all about what the the individual wants, and not what focus groups want...

    Fortunately, the most vocal is also the most computer savvy, and companies that focus on creating scalable frameworks that cater to the individual rather than the masses (read: Google) will be the ultimate winner. But right now, many companies don't understand that concept and just see Google as an ATM and include in the quarterly 10-K filing... "ATM didn't dispense money, persuing legal action". Well, Duh. The ATM couldn't give you money, but it did give you tomorrow's Lotto Numbers on the reciept. Did you buy a ticket? Point is that Google, at it's core, understands that it is a service company, sees, and understands the future. It's also willing to understand the individual. This is a very different concept than Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay, Viacom, Priemer League who are inherently reactionary. This is why I truly think Serge and Larry will be successful, just like how Steve Jobs was Successful with the iPod. Do you think it was any mistake that Steve Jobs waited until 2001 to release iPod? The timing is really interesting because of the cross-licensing agreements created a few years before.

    Nice thing about the US is that laws are created by congress, with the exception of legislation from the bench from our buddies at the 9th Circuit and other liberal judges (Read: Texas) I would wholeheartedly suggest to your local reps to checkout TD every now and again...

    Sorry for my sarcasm, and sorry Mike for taking away from the topic..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kev, 5 May 2007 @ 10:59pm


    What really sucks is that those of us in Canada/North America - and presumably other countries - don't get to see all the highlights/action. So youtube/footytube is an invaluable resource to keep up with the action.

    All greed. Nothing more, nothing less.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sam, 6 May 2007 @ 6:46am


    hey.. please, if you're going to argue/use my thoughts, please get them right!!

    my 2nd point talked about the owner of the content. i said if a company (owner) owns the content, the guy has the right to post it/not post it where he wants. and that you don't have the right to take it and do what you want to with it.

    if you have the "rights" to take a video of your kid kicking the football in the football league, great, do whatever the heel you want to with it. if you however, are infringing on the football league's rights, then they have the right to scream..

    since they might not scream at you, they might scream at whatever site has the content....


    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RandomThoughts, 6 May 2007 @ 11:51am

    Ask any cop or prosecutor what happens if the police have to go to a bar night after night to break up fights or to arrest people for prostitution or investigate killings night after night. Sooner or later they will move to shut the place down because it will be seen as a place that facilities illegal activity. YouTube is no different.

    I understand the marketing value of free but it is the content owners right to make bad decisions (according to you) and you can't force the issue. If the owners don't want their clips on YouTube, they shouldn't be there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobshaker, 6 May 2007 @ 8:07pm

    Doesn't matter what the companies want...

    All these counter-arguments saying that if a company owns the copyright for its content then it can post/not post it where ever it wants. True. But as the topic of the article goes...these companies are just plain stupid to scream against promotion of their own content. Its not a question of pride and such...ts business and if there are people promoting you're content in other countries...then isn't that good for you? Thats what the article says. Why would you do that to your company...even for easy money. Like a comment above. Its all greed. You don't need an MBA from Wharton for that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matty G, 8 May 2007 @ 7:40am

    Youtube debate

    It is farcical that media rights worth billions can be appropriated by youtube, which can hide behind US 'safe harbour' laws. Facical but great because I can see the goals i may have missed at the weekend on Monday at my work desk, which maybe suggests they are worth something. Funny how youtube has very little NFL action on the site - why is this? Could it be because of the NFL's famed legal department?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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