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The Premier League’s War on Vine

Everyone’s done it at some point or another. In a desperate search for match highlights we trawl through the Internet in a vain attempt to see our beloved team play. Finally we give up and go onto Vine to try to piece together match highlights in six-second segments. For some of us it’s a funny ritual and for others a cruel necessity.

For the Premier League however, Vine has been and is a problem. Since its inception in 2012, Vine, the video sharing service, has become a thorn in the Premier League’s side.

Long known for tackling online streaming of Premiership matches, the Premier League’s lawyers have now set their sights on Vine. In the past six months, 68,000 Vines have specifically featured Premier League content in six-second clips and the Premier League isn’t happy. Such clips are often hastily recorded during the matches themselves or are recordings from the television. It’s fair to say they are not of the highest quality. This however, is of little importance to the Premier League. Copyright infringement is occurring.

Yes despite the fact that the Premier League will earn roughly £3bn from TV Revenues over the next three years, it is about to wage a war on Vine for freely showing snippets of matches. Yes those precious six-second segments are worth gold dust it seems.

There is a sense of desperation about the Premier League’s attempt to wage war on the Internet. Watching matches online for free is a time-honoured tradition for millions of football fans without the means to attend or pay for matches. During the summer, it’s estimated that 20 million people viewed the World Cup Final illegally.

So in the face of such insurmountable odds, why is the Premier League bothering? The answer appears to be money. £3bn over three years from TV deals represents the bulk of Revenue earned by the Premier League. This money is separate from match day revenues, advertising and everything else. To lose out on it would spell disaster for the League.

Money is the driving force behind the war on Vine but it raises questions about the Premier League’s relationship with fans. Fans are flocking towards Vine and other Internet sites because they have been priced out of attending or watching live matches. Football’s origins in England originate among the masses, among the working classes. The Premier League has developed a hold on the distribution of football and is in effect depriving the very same people who popularized the game the chance to view it.

The Premier League has already begun its assault on Vine. Takedown notices for intellectual property (IP) breaches have already been served to Vine with the message that any copyright infringement will not be tolerated. Coupled with this, efforts are being made to develop technologies such as gif crawlers and Vine crawlers to weed out and catch offenders. Finally, other social media sites such as Twitter have been brought in to crackdown on illegal sharing.

Whether or not the Premier League will be successful is up for debate, but what’s clear is that yet again, money is being considered before fans so be careful next time you share that Vine.

Conor Heffernan

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