The World Cup has taken America and social media by storm.  Naturally, people are motivated to share highlights from the world’s biggest sporting event on Twitter.  Videos, GIFs, and screengrabs of the tournament are rampant.  But given the expensive nature of World Cup rights and highlights, the networks that had to fork over hundreds of millions are starting to play hardball with online content providers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, FIFA, as well as ESPN and Univision, are not just putting the clamps on random YouTube videos here and there.  They are pursuing major web portals who put together their own highlight packages.  In fact, both SB Nation and Slate.com have been targeted by rightsholders for copyright infringement after putting together their own highlight packages:

Since the start of the tournament Vox Media-owned sports site SB Nation, one of the chief purveyors of quick World Cup content, has had two accounts suspended on Vine, according to its managing editor Brian Floyd.

SB Nation received suspension notices from Twitter, Mr. Floyd said, after a complaint from media-protection company Irdeto, which works on behalf of Univision.

“They don’t seem to mind people Vine-ing funny stuff like fans,” explained Clay Wendler, who quickly crafts Vines for SB Nation. But when it comes to goals — breathtaking moments of glory seemingly tailor-made for the six-second looping video format — rights-holders are more stringent, Mr. Wendler said. Twitter did not respond to requests for comment on its policies regarding World Cup content.

SB Nation and Twitter aren’t the only sites to feel the pressure. On Friday Slate.com published a hugely entertaining video rounding up all 136 goals scored during the group stages of the World Cup tournament.

The 8-minute video was the type of content rabid soccer fans devour and share, which is presumably why Slate decided to cut it together in the first place. The video, which also carried pre-roll advertising for a range of major brands, generated nearly 2,000 shares across Facebook and Twitter in a few hours, and likely thousands of video ad views in the process.

Following inquiries from CMO Today, however, the video was promptly removed from the Slate site Friday. A person familiar with the matter said the publisher removed the video after being contacted by ESPN.

It’s a very sad and predictable development for those who champion fair use and social media sharing of World Cup highlights.  It’s impossible for FIFA and the television networks to shut down every website, YouTube user, and social media account that puts up a Vine of James Rodriguez’s goal of the tournament.  Why put in all of the time and effort to go after sites like SB Nation and Slate when those videos are going to pop up again in another form?  Shutting down World Cup videos and Vines on the internet is like trying to stop a raging river with your bare hands.  It’s just not going to happen.

It’d be great to see more leagues and networks take the NBA’s more laissez-faire approach to online video and realize that the more content that exists on the internet, the better it is for promoting the league or event in question.  Does it really hurt ESPN’s bottom dollar that much if Slate posts a video of every World Cup goal so far?  Or would it encourage new fans to check out the World Cup who haven’t yet?  To ESPN’s credit, they’ve made a ton of their videos embeddable for blogs and other content providers to use, which has been a great development throughout the tournament.  One wonders why that more progressive strategy doesn’t take another step forward.

We live in an age of social media.  That’s the entire point.  This kind of stringent copyright policing of highlights is going against the ethos of the age of sharing that we currently reside.

[Wall Street Journal]

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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