Premier League to Clamp Down on GIFs and Vines

The UK's Premier League has put fans on notice that it's preparing a crackdown against those who post match GIFs and Vines online. The short clips might only be a few seconds, but the football giant says they are illegal and will be dealt with.

premierWhen Steve Wilhite of Compuserve created the GIF format in the late 80s, he probably didn’t imagine it would be in use more than a quarter of a century later.

Against the odds, in 2012 the GIF celebrated its 25th birthday, a fitting tribute to a format that has not only endured but also enjoyed a resurgence alongside today’s meme culture. However, the tiny video clips available in today’s GIFs aren’t appreciated by everyone.

On the eve of the new season, the UK’s Premier League has been putting fans on notice that it will no longer tolerate the unauthorized distribution of its copyright works. In addition to going after those who live stream full matches, the football giant says it now intends to tackle individuals who post short clips online.

According to the League, the problem is being caused by fans who record goals and upload them as GIFs and Vines within a few minutes of the event. These spread virally around blogs and sites such as Twitter and are enthusiastically consumed, especially on mobile devices.

“You can understand that fans see something, they can capture it, they can share it, but ultimately it is against the law,” Dan Johnson, director of communications at the Premier League, told the BBC.

These over-enthusiastic fans sharing a few seconds of footage – often at particularly low quality – are apparently causing financial hardship for the most-watched football league in the world. So, to bring that to an end, the Premier League are looking towards a technological solution.

“It’s a breach of copyright and we would discourage fans from doing it, we’re developing technologies like gif crawlers, Vine crawlers, working with Twitter to look to curtail this kind of activity,” Johnson said.

“I know it sounds as if we’re killjoys but we have to protect our intellectual property.”

Going after those who place short video clips online is not new. There have been several reports in the past few months of UFC owner Zuffa taking action against individuals who upload GIFs, with a recent purge in July against content hosted on popular hoster GfyCat.

While fans insist that GIFs of goals and knockouts are simply free promotion, the rights to show such things don’t come cheap. UK tabloid The Sun has an app which shows Premier League goals within two minutes of the moment, but fans have to pay £7 per month ($11.68) to access it.

As the UFC have no doubt realized by now (and the Premier League soon will), taking down GIFs will be a huge resource drain and will do little to stop availability of content. The files are too tiny, far too easily shared and come from potentially thousands of directions. Add to this the problem of having to nuke content in near real-time, and this becomes an unsolvable problem, at least by enforcement means.

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