One would think that athletic departments and collegiate teams would be able to freely post content on their social media accounts without the fear of being reported by their respective conference. Well, it turns out that was not the case with the University of Louisville football program. Last week, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Network filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) Takedown Notice with Twitter against @UofLFootball & others.

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

Signed into law by President Bill Clinton in October 1998, the DMCA essentially protects copyright infringement on the world wide web. First and foremost, the copyright holder owns an exclusive right in the copyrighted work(s). Therefore, the owner may bring a claim, or file an DMCA Takedown Notice, against an opposing party that does not have permission to use one or more of the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner.

While copyright infringement will not usually lead to statutory or actual damages for a singular tweet or set of tweets, damages are still possible for the copyright holder to receive. Specifically, the copyright holder may receive between $750 and $30,000 per individual work; for willful infringement, a court may award up to $150,000 per work. A court may also award a reasonable attorney’s fee to the prevailing party. It is important to note that Twitter will not be held liable when there is copyright infringement on its site, which was established in Viacom v. YouTube, 676 F.3d 19 (2d Cir. 2012).

Action Taken by ACC Network

Louisville’s football account was not the only account the ACC Network took action against on September 10. In fact, on Twitter alone, it filed ten total DMCA Takedown Notices. However, nine of the accounts were not a similar medium to the Louisville football account. Put another way, they were journalists, media outlets, and the like. Thus, it was not shocking that the ACC Network cracked down on that content, but it was shocking that the ACC Network went after Louisville mainly because the Cardinals are an ACC member.

Put together, even though there is or may be copyright infringement present, it does not necessarily mean that the copyright holder, in this case the ACC Network, has to file an DMCA Takedown Notice. For instance, the NBA is fairly relaxed when it comes to policing their copyrightable material on Twitter. The league presumably sees it as a branding opportunity. On the other hand, the NFL and MLB are closely related to the ACC Network in terms of policing their copyrightable material.

In 2015, the NFL briefly suspended Deadspin’s and SBNation’s Twitter accounts during a Monday Night Football contest due to copyright infringement. At that time, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy acknowledged that the league sent notices “requesting that Twitter disable links to more than a dozen pirated NFL game videos and highlights that violate the NFL’s copyrights.” Interestingly enough, a Washington Post article noted that the NFL outsources enforcement to a third party, NetResult, “which monitors the Internet and files grievances on the league’s behalf.”

College GameDay

The tweets that were taken down by Twitter mainly featured content from the Louisville-Syracuse game on Friday, September 9. For all intents and purposes, the game was a blowout; Bobby Petrino and his team defeated the Orangemen 62-28. Today, the no.10 Cardinals host the no.2 Seminoles at 11:00 am CST on ABC. ESPN’s College GameDay is also in town. Thus, there stands greater opportunity for the ACC Network to crack down on copyright infringement and file notices because of the lucrative matchup and more social conversation.

As it relates to Louisville and Florida State’s social media activity and the fear of copyright infringement, one would expect the schools to have an agreement(s) with the ACC Network to post content owned by the network, at least this time around given last week’s events.  If they do not, they could and may strike an agreement — whether licensing or otherwise — with ESPN/ABC to post videos, gifs, and the like.

Content Removed From Twitter

Additonal Sources

  1. Frequently Asked Questions and their Answers about DMCA Copyright, University of Virginia Information Policy, http://www.virginia.edu/informationpolicy/copyright/faq.html 

 

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