There’s a headline strategy that certain media outlets employ, asking an open-ended question to set up a few obvious thesis points. Some places are just lazy, too, though we certainly won’t name names (or numbers.) This isn’t one of those pieces. That headline above isn’t rhetorical. The PGA Tour‘s policy on social media clips and highlights is baffling to the point of requiring some kind of examination, and even after a deep dive, it’s so hard to fathom that we’d welcome any kind of outside input.
The policy in question refers to their draconian approach to issuing DMCA takedowns for golf highlights and clips. It happened to Awful Announcing on Tuesday, nuking the feed entirely.
Apologize for the lack of tweets this morning. The @PGATOUR DMCAd us so we're just getting back in here now
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) February 14, 2023
That was for an innocuous tweet pointing out something fun during a golf broadcast this weekend – Colt Knost’s great call of Jon Rahm’s birdie putt on Saturday in the party atmosphere of the 16th hole at the Phoenix Open. That’s the pattern, though. And while this column might not exist today if the Tour hadn’t blown up the site account, it’s important to note that it’s not a personal vendetta here. This is a longstanding pattern of behavior that has affected people all across golf and sports media who have been doing free work getting PGA Tour-related content out to the universe.
PGA Tour: “Not enough young ppl engage with our product”
Also the PGA Tour: “Let’s make sure they can’t” https://t.co/DP7L4uvoHY
— Joseph LaMagna (@JosephLaMagna) February 14, 2023
It’s happened to me personally, too. Memorably once while I highlighted a really fun moment of work from Christina Kim on commentary in 2020.
Anyway, here's the video they don't want you to see:https://t.co/6QLxbj89Zs
— Jay Rigdon (@jayrigdon5) September 15, 2020
There are a few levels of complaint here, and we’ll address one first here: it makes our jobs harder. That’s not really something we expect sympathy for, to be clear. And it’s fairly common for some people on Twitter to say things like “Well it’s not your content!” when issues like this happen.
This is true! It isn’t! It’s not our hosting platform, either, and if the PGA Tour wants to crack down on videos being sent out on Twitter, they’re well within their legal right to do so, as are other leagues. That’s not the debate, though; the debate is why? What purpose does this possibly serve?
The PGA Tour has both explicitly and implicitly acknowledged the threat they’re currently facing from LIV Golf, the Saudi-funded organization that has proven to be bumbling and incompetent at nearly every turn.
The ethical high ground and LIV’s own ineptitude have so far combined to protect the PGA Tour, somewhat, but they’ve still lost numerous recognizable names to a rival league and had to adjust their own payout structure on the fly in major ways. That a longstanding top American sporting organization could feel that kind of outside pressure from a Greg Norman-led group scrounging for a CW distribution deal is a major sign of institutional vulnerability. Imagine if whoever had challenged the Tour had done so with less odorous financial backing and real sharks in the c-suite.
The Tour should from any reasonable perspective be viewing social media reach for what it is: free marketing. Certainly not entire broadcasts being pirated, no one is suggesting that. But a fair use highlight clip relevant to a certain site’s audience feels very much like something other leagues would be glad to see shared.
take your free 4M impressions then flex your DMCA muscles. savvy https://t.co/Cy0kWTsyFn
— Eric Patterson (@EPatGolf) January 31, 2023
We do a lot of ManningCast clips, for example, and it’s never been an issue because ESPN and the NFL understand that generating social media buzz for an event without having to pay for placement is very much a net positive for them. The PGA Tour takes an opposite approach, which is a wild choice for a sport that is so clearly and thirstily desperate for a younger audience, as evidenced by their partnership with Netflix on the just-released Full Swing.
That conflict in strategy is the sign of a rudderless ship, which should be much, much more concerning to the people in charge at Tour HQ than unaffiliated Twitter accounts providing free signal boosts.