Why Is MLB Claiming Revenue From Obviously Fair Use Videos On YouTube?

from the forks-and-sandwiches dept

Nearly a decade ago, we wrote a bunch about an excellent book called Copyfraud, by law professor Jason Mazzone, which went into great detail about how the legacy entertainment industry companies have used copyright in ways that are clearly against copyright's intent -- to the point that they border on fraud. The concept of copyfraud should be referred to more frequently, and here's a perfect example. Just a couple months ago, we wrote about the amazing social media account of Jimmy O'Brien, who goes by @Jomboy_ on Twitter. He's combined his love of baseball, his video editing skills, his ability to read lips incredibly well, and with a sarcastic, dry sense of humor to make a ton of amazing videos about various things happening in baseball. We highlighted a bunch last time around and his profile has only grown a lot since then, including among Major League Baseball players.

About a month after that post, Jomboy may have had his biggest moment so far, in putting together a truly amazing video of NY Yankees manager Aaron Boone getting ejected -- following a bunch of players and Boone arguing with a young umpire over some bad calls. What took the video from normal great to amazing was that it revealed exactly what Boone was saying to the ump during their argument thanks to a bunch of "hot mics" from the broadcast. That allowed us to learn a lot more about this argument than anyone normally does in watching a manager scream at an ump:

That video alone went crazy viral and launched an even more viral meme in the phrase "fucking savages," that is now on tons of t-shirts. Yankee fans have embraced it. The players have embraced it. By any stretch of the imagination, this was actually great for the game of baseball.

So, of course, Major League Baseball wants to kill it. Because that's what MLB does. MLB's head of discipline (and a former Yankee manager himself), Joe Torre is apparently really really upset about these hot mic videos that have gotten fans so excited about the game. Because how dare fans learn about the personalities of the people in the game.

The preponderance of that information has become more common lately, as microphones have picked up what’s said on the field, leaving little to the imagination. Torre will take the information, but he’d rather it wasn’t available to anyone with a Twitter account.

“That’s not the way I want to hear it, for everybody else to hear it,’’ Torre said Tuesday at Yankee Stadium. “I wish I could hear it, only. It makes it easy to make my decision.”

Apparently, Torre met with Boone to "discuss" the hot mic "issue" (there is no issue), leading one of the Yankees' beat reporters, Bryan Hoch, to point out that this meeting was really happening because someone like Jomboy made a video:

So, first of all, this is incredibly dumb on MLB and Torre's part. Torre, of course, has famously had his own hot mic moments during ejections as well.

But it gets dumber, and it involves out and out copyfraud.

In response to Hoch's comment, a Twitter user joked that MLB doesn't want Jomboy "profiting off their backs." To which Jomboy noted that MLB "claims" all of his videos on YouTube, so when he has videos that get millions of views (as many of his do), it's MLB collecting the revenue.

Someone rightly points out that "it seems way beyond fair use" and Jomboy notes that he tried that once, but YouTube rejected it:

This all seems ridiculous for a whole variety of reasons. First off, this does appear to be quintessential fair use. It's a (tiny) portion of the video. It's done for reporting purposes, it's arguably transformative (the videos show a very different side of the game), and it seems to only increase the potential market for baseball, not decrease it. But, because of the system YouTube has set up here, MLB gets the money.

No one is watching these videos as a replacement for MLB content. They're watching it to get Jomboy's insight, humor, lip reading skills and such. And yet, MLB is getting the money.

That's blatant copyfraud.

I'm sure O'Brien has little interest in antagonizing MLB (which should be celebrating him rather than worrying about his videos), so he probably has no interest in fighting this with a lawyer. But, again, that demonstrates MLB's abuse of power here. It knows that it can take the money from Jomboy's work and he can't push back very hard or he'll run into other problems with MLB.

Either way, I'm wondering about all those folks who show up in our comments saying stuff about how strong copyright is necessary to "protect creators" feel about this situation? Here a creator is getting robbed of revenue he should legitimately have earned, because YouTube is handing it to a giant corporation instead.

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Filed Under: breakdowns, copyfraud, copyright, fair use, jobboy, revenue
Companies: mlb, youtube

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 Aug 2019 @ 5:28am

    Poor MLB

    Won't somebody think of the owners?

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