from the copyright-law-is-ridiculous dept
Yesterday on Twitter, there was a big discussion over the fact that Twitter had disabled two well-known sports media Twitter feeds, both for supposedly infringing on copyrights by posting GIFs of sports highlights. Almost everything about this story is ridiculous and highlights just how screwed up copyright law is today. Let’s count the ways:
- The idea that these GIFs were infringing seems ridiculous. There’s a very, very, very strong fair use argument here. They were showing tiny (sound-free) tidbits from college and professional football games. No one is using these in place of watching the actual games. In fact, these GIFs almost certainly act as strong advertising for getting people to actually watch games.
- The idea that Twitter suspended these accounts is somewhat understandable, but still ridiculous. Yes, the DMCA in 512(i)(1)(A) requires service providers to implement a “repeat infringer policy,” and that policy must “provide for the termination” of said repeat infringers. So, for this bit of ridiculous, we can blame the DMCA that sort of forces this on Twitter.
- Even so, we can still blame Twitter somewhat for not standing up to the NFL and XOS Digital (which has the broadcast rights for a bunch of college football games) and saying “this is fair use.”
- Even given the requirement to terminate repeat infringers, doesn’t it seem totally screwed up that a major channel for major media properties can simply be disappeared? This is, again, an example of why the Section 230 safe harbors are so much better than the DMCAs. Deadspin and SBNation weren’t “pirate sites.” They were doing something that tons of professional media have done for ages — and suddenly they lost their accounts? That’s ridiculous.
- What the hell are the NFL and XOS Digital thinking? The NFL has claimed that it never asked for the accounts to be shut down — it just wanted the tweets with the GIFs to be taken down. But, of course, that makes no sense. Under the DMCA, again, if the tweets are infringing, at some point it will hit the “repeat infringer policy” so the NFL’s statement is meaningless, and suggests a lack of knowledge of copyright law. Given that this is the same sports league that flat out lies at the end of every game with its copyright message that claims you can’t even repeat “accounts of the game” without “express written permission,” perhaps it’s not a surprise that it wouldn’t understand this part of copyright law either.
- What the hell are the NFL and XOS Digital thinking, part II. Who the hell is this helping? I’m assuming that both will make vague references to protecting their copyrights and about how valuable broadcast deals are. But, again, no one who put more than 3 seconds into thinking about this thinks that people are suddenly going to give up on their expensive cable package because they can watch GIFs on Twitter. That’s not how this works. And really, if their broadcast deals are so fragile as to be undermined by GIFs on Twitter, perhaps there’s a bigger problem there to address.
All in all, the whole thing is yet another example of the ridiculous things that come about because of our dopey copyright system.