The National Football League, the ones that can't seem to get a quarterback suspended or keep themselves out of lawsuits is back at it again as they are rumored to have had several sports Twitter accounts suspended. The offense you may ask? Putting up GIFs of game footage, which they claimed was against copyright and not in fair use.
The major account in question was Deadspin's Twitter account. In the afternoon Monday, Deadspin's account went dark, but has sense been brought back online later in the evening.
While Twitter and the NFL have yet to come out with an official response and have not responded to any comments so far, Gawker Media's social media strategist, Terron Moore, confirmed that it was in fact the NFL that issued the copyright strikes in relation to GIFs posted.
Copyright can be a tricky thing to deal with as social media and online video platforms are becoming an increasing part of our daily lives. Yet, the NFL, who seems hell bent on branching out further and growing their business to new heights continues to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to fans and growing naturally.
Goodell in specific has been at the center of most of the criticism due to what many fans call the "No Fun League," where flags and increased scrutiny over things like celebrations have made the game of football come to a standstill and take the fun out of what used to be an enjoyable family bonding experience. Add in the inconsistent punishment of it's players, coaches and own staff along with the NFL's desire to screw over players, referees, fans, coaches and even cities all for the expense of a slightly higher profit margin and you have the NFL becoming more of a business than ever prophesized before.
Going back to copyright law, while I'm no lawyer, the term fair use seems to apply to any short clips of a football game shared on social media. Per Wikipedia:
Fair use is a limitation and exception to the exclusive right granted by copyright law to the author of a creative work. InUnited States copyright law, fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders. Examples of fair use include commentary, search engines, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching, library archiving and scholarship. It provides for the legal, unlicensed citation or incorporation of copyrighted material in another author's work under a four-factor balancing test.
Fair use has always been explained to me that any use of a copyrighted work for parody, criticism, teaching or reporting was fair game. With social media accounts like Deadspin and SB Nation GIFs, we've seen GIFs that have been done for reporting purposes or even for parody purposes. Here at Baltimore Beatdown, we have used GIFs in the comments section, in articles and on both Twitter and Facebook to help highlight things that fans might have missed (reporting), or for just making fun of something silly that happened (parody).
It astounds me that a business that wants to reach new audiences tries so hard to shield itself from something as simple as a GIF being shared online. Yet another misstep by the NFL and Roger Goodell on their attempt to alienate every single fan in the world until there is no league left.