In the interest of full disclosure, I have to start by saying I’ve never been a big soccer fan.
I watched Germany beat Argentina in the World Cup final, but I’ll confess it took me a few minutes to figure out which team was which.
But my interest was piqued when I heard that FIFA, the international soccer governing body, had dealt another blow to Internet theft of commercial television programming.
It seems that Twitter, among others, has been stealing portions of the games, in this case the stills and videos of goals immediately after they happened.
Unfortunately for the on-line providers, television outlets probably paid more than $4-billion for the rights to broadcast the games, including replays of critical actions. So in effect, the games belonged to them, and FIFA issued what is called a “take down” notice.
Twitter and others tried to claim something called “fair use,” a notoriously slippery concept that usually applies to schools, reviews and commentary. The idea is that you can take a small portion of a copyrighted work and use it for educational, not financial, purposes.
Twitter, of course, wanted to show the highlights in hopes of attracting viewers to the ads. In other words, Twitter wanted to make money by using someone else’s property, and not paying the property owners for the privilege.
Now, it’s true that the segments on Twitter were only six seconds long. But part of the quirkiness of copyright law is that the rights-holder has to take affirmative action to protect their rights, or the material could go into the public domain, which means anyone could use the material for anything they want.
Unfortunately, the law has not kept up with technology, and there is no bright line to determine just what is, or is not, fair use. Until there is, copyright holders will continue to try to protect their property, as more and more material slips through their fingers.