Can you share sports videos online? Premier League says no, but it’s not clear why

What spoilsports. Premier League officials are marking the kick-off of another soccer season by warning fans that they better not share goal highlights on social media because “it is against the law.”

According to a BBC report, the League understands than fans want to share their favorite game moments, but that it’s determined to follow the World Cup’s example and put a stop to this all the same.

“We’re developing technologies like gif crawlers, Vine crawlers, working with Twitter to look to curtail this kind of activity,” a spokesperson told the BBC.

Even by the standards of intellectual property-obsessed sports leagues, this is pretty stupid. First off, it’s a slap in the face to fans who want to share their passion in a way that doesn’t seem to harm the economic interest of the league. After all, how do Vine clips — which are only six seconds long — undercut fans’ desire to see games?

In case, you’re unfamiliar with Vine, here’s a clip I just made of a highlight from Major League Baseball — which I can post to Twitter or websites like this one:

[protected-iframe id=”c05878d15131b7b19588cd908559cbbb-14960843-34118173″ info=”” width=”600″ height=”600″ frameborder=”0″]

The point is that the clip is so short that it can hardly take the place of a game or a TV highlights show.

In the case of the Premier League, though, the hardline against video sharing is not just a poor business strategy, but one that is legally questionable at best.

That’s because, while a sports broadcast is protected by copyright, a six-second clip probably is not. In the United States at least, a court would likely say the League would have no claim due to the principle of fair use or because the clip is “de minimus.”

Unfortunately, it sounds like the Premier League is going to unleash a takedown campaign all the same, and that Twitter will be willing to go along with it. In a statement, it told BBC that “Vine users may not post content that violates the rights of a third party.”

I asked Twitter how this will apply in the U.S., and the company says it informs those whose videos are removed about the process for filing a counter-notice under the Copyright Act:

“Twitter responds to formal reports of alleged copyright infringement as outlined in Section 512 of the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and provides instructions on how an affected party can appeal a removal by submitting a complaint counter-notice. We send all received reports to Chilling Effects, who posts them publicly, and report the number of DMCA notices and counter-notices we receive in our semi-annual transparency report.”

This story was updated at 1:35pm ET to include Twitter’s statement.