by Paul Alan Levy
After protecting consumers’ right to online free speech, my second biggest passion is soccer. So the latest DMCA takedown controversy comes right up my alley.
Yesterday I enjoyed posting a link to friends calling attention to a tiny You Tube clip, little more than 20 seconds, showing a Colin Clark, a player for Major League Soccer team Houston Dynamo calling a ball boy at the Seattle Sounders stadium a “faggot” because he did not deliver the ball directly into the player’s hands, but rather tossed the ball onto the ground for the player to pick up. The video was widely publicized, and Clark issued an apology. Meanwhile, the video occasioned a discussion among soccer fans, who compared the comment to recent controversies in Europe over racist comments directed toward players by other players or by fans or said that the league should take disciplinary action, questioned whether the ball boy had deliberately slowed the game down (Houston was losing at the time) and whether teams need to train their ball boys (or ball girls) better so that such incidents do not recur. All in all, a healthy discussion, but one which, perhaps, did not reflect well either on Clark or on MLS.
My own comment in posting the link was, unfortunately, rather prescient:
- Waiting to see MLS take prompt, strong action over player directing anti-gay slur at ballboy. And I don't mean a DMCA take-down to suppress the news.
As of today, the link had been taken down pursuant to an MLS copyright complaint.
No doubt the clip was taken from a copyrighted telecast, but there can also be no doubt that this was fair use – a 20 second clip from a 90 minute game (plus introduction, ending and the like). And how can viewers appreciate the commentary and make their own judgments about its soundness, not to speak of commenting themselves), without seeing exactly what the ball boy did and how Clark reacted?
Major League Soccer should be ashamed. It should also have thopught about the possibilty that the takedown itself might bring more attention to the criticisms. Indeed, here is a slightly longer clip, which has not yet been taken down, so you can judge for yourself.
A fan's guide to fair use in posting soccer video clips (or, indeed, videos from any game) is posted here.