Donald MacInnes: Time for Barclays and the Premier League to get a sense of humour


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The Independent Online

This week I shall begin with four words which really wouldn't look out of place in a legitimate, modern newspaper column. Today we will be talking about Intellectual Property and Public Domain. Ooh, I felt a frisson of professionalism there. I should try to be legitimate more often. Or maybe I won't. Either way, off we go.

The Premier League last Saturday began its annual, nine-month paddle through a warm, waist-deep lagoon of lovely money, in the guise of the English football season. The competition, which last May was won by Manchester City, is sponsored (although it may have escaped your attention) by another conglomerate favouring light blue corporate livery, a bank called Barclays. Regular attendees to this Saturday jamboree of ill-combined words will recall that, as a not-shaving-yet youth of some 18 summers (well, it was Glasgow, so use your imagination as regards blue skies, trips to the seaside and actual warmth), I was arrested within a branch of Barclays bank for taking part in a sit-down protest against its business dealings with the apartheid regime in South Africa.

That's neither here nor there in the current storyline, but I only ever got arrested once and I'm proud of it.

Anyway, the people in charge of the Premier League have recently felt the need to warn football fans attending games against filming goals on their phones or tablets and then posting the short snippets of action – or what the young folk are now calling "vines" – to whichever social media site has their ear that week. The suits claim that by "stealing" images of an event which is somehow "owned" by someone else, the fans are infringing the intellectual property of the league. It seems that whatever happens on the actual pitch is the property of the administrators. Only they may broadcast any footage of the game.

Leaving aside the spoilsport aspect of this pronouncement, it strikes me that football fans should be opposing this diktat far more vociferously than they appear to be doing. They have already paid fortunes to see the action (in the case of my team, Arsenal, up to £126, which is a laughable monstrosity) – why the extra burden of limiting what they can and can't record on their mobiles and post to YouTube? Anyway, aren't they, by being in the stadium, part of said intellectual property? At what point do the opposing laws of public domain come into effect? What if the fans take a selfie with the players celebrating a goal in the background? What if their jumping up and down renders the footage they have shot to be a complete mess and far from broadcast quality?

And most importantly of all, aren't the fans as much an intrinsic part of the experience as the two teams and the television cameras? With no fans, there would be no game to broadcast. So, I urge the Premier League and Barclays to get a sense of humour. Or a better mobile contract.

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