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:
- The secretary of an amateur sporting league has no authority to issue any kind of fine, let alone a £5,000 one.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.