Shortly after learning to walk and speak, the average person who develops an interest in sports learns these words by heart:
This copyrighted telecast is presented by authority of _______________. It may not be reproduced or retransmitted in any form, and the accounts and descriptions of this game may not be disseminated, without the express written consent of ___________.
Those two sentences are at the heart of the latest brouhaha between sports leagues, the corporations that run major social networks, and the “news” organizations who post thereon.
The Twitter accounts of Deadspin SB Nation were suspended yesterday after the NFL and other sports leagues complained that GIFs — 6 second animated videos — were being posted.
Deadspin was allowed back online last night with a shot at the NFL commissioner. The offending GIFs were gone from the account.
— Deadspin (@Deadspin) October 13, 2015
The NFL said the sports sites were “pirating” content, but denied to the New York Times that it asked Twitter to suspend the accounts.
Writing at Awful Announcing, Dan Levy provides the “takedown notices” from college football, Ultimate Fighting and the NFL.
This has been an issue for years, and it’s somewhat ironic that writers on the internet rightly call out others for plagiarism—the worst offense in journalism—yet routinely steal video content without paying for the rights. Making something into a gif undoubtedly serves the greater sports-loving audience, and one can make the case it helps grow the conversation and interest in a particular sport, but television companies pay billions of dollars for us to watch games and highlights, and the leagues have a legal responsibility to protect those rights.
Sure, some leagues protect those rights a little too much, but for what it’s worth, business is business. This business, as we’ve seen, is worth a lot.
Nonetheless, the situation perfectly illustrates the challenges not only of changing technology, but changing storytelling as Vines and GIFS are as important as the words of sportswriters when covering an event.