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This article was published on September 4, 2018

EU copyright reform will penalize sports fans

EU copyright reform will penalize sports fans

A lot has been written about the danger the planned EU copyright reform poses for freedom of speech online, for memes and remixes, for software developers, and startups.

Below, my colleague Dan Dalton and I draw attention to another group that would be badly affected by the planned law: Sports fans across Europe.

Filtering fan culture away

As you may have heard, Article 13 would establish “censorship machines” that surveil all your posts on internet platforms and scan them for supposed copyright infringement. If these filters don’t approve your upload, it will never go online.

Upload filters would prevent any video using even the shortest snippets of sports broadcasts from seeing the light of day: Commentary, supercutssports-related memes, and other valuable fan works will be blocked automatically.

Filters can’t tell whether your use of such a snippet (e.g. a 3 second video of a particularly interesting goal) is permitted under a copyright exception – such as the one for quotation or parody – or not.

To avoid legal responsibility, platforms will err on the side of caution and block everything that may be an issue. You’ll need to manually fight through an appeals process for even the most perfectly legal posts.

But it’s in combination with a new, extra copyright, which some in the European Parliament are pushing for, that upload filters could really get nasty.

A new copyright for sports events?

Without prior discussion of the issue – and certainly no public debate at all – the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament this summer narrowly voted to demand that a new article be added to the copyright law:

This new right would make it copyright infringement to take snapshots or film at e.g. a football match from the audience, with your own phone or camera. Fan vlogs, selfies in the stadium, or documenting choreographies would all be affected by this proposal. The upload filters described above would need to detect and automatically block these works.

Credit: Shivapat

The right would give clubs and leagues an unprecedented amount of control over what fans can do in the stadium. They could choose to selectively enforce it to, such as suppress reports of protests or bully inconvenient fans.

It’s unclear which problem this right is supposed to solve. Sports broadcasts are already protected by the “related right” for broadcasting – sports organizers sell the exclusive right to show the live games in a given country to broadcasters.

These rights already create huge revenues for the organizers of premium sports. Fans spreading their own recordings of their personal experience – often hours after the matches have ended – only serves to promote a sport or team.

If we look beyond the big football leagues, there are a lot of sports that struggle for coverage and exposure. This new right, applying to all sports events equally, would make it even harder to get attention.

Sports administrators who desperately want people to see the sport will find they get even less exposure, even in markets where there is no commercial demand – think cricket in continental Europe or handball in the UK.

Save fan culture

Fans are what makes sport valuable in the first place. Premium sports are premium because a lot of people are passionate about them – this new right would be a blatant attack on sports organizers’ greatest supporters. The European Parliament will vote on this law on September 12.

If you’re unhappy with these proposals, call your MEP today using the free tool at SaveYourInternet.eu and ask them to vote against upload filters and against additional copyrights for sports event organizers. Calling a politician’s office may not come natural to you, but it takes just a minute – and it’s their job to listen to your concerns!

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