This week I ran into a dilemma at the intersection of media and technology. In the last flew weeks we have got some amazing new technology in the live mobile streaming space. Meerkat, and Twitter-owned Periscope. The mobile app live streaming these apps enable feels really new and exciting. It reminds of when we first heard about Twitter. Not surprisingly though, just like when social media was new and we had to have a national conversation about its impacts on society, it is time to do so once again with this new technology.
If you know me then you know I love early adopting and testing new technologies. I am still optimistically waiting for the Google Glass comeback in a few years time. I also run a website or two. One of them being TheHerdReport.com. The team and I played with both Meerkat and Periscope on our personal accounts recently. Afterword our next thought was how incredibly cool it would be to use them while covering live events. Obviously, this technology would be a perfect fit to use with The Herd Report. The technology gives us, the underdog, the ability to be a lot closer to being on the same level as those incumbents with expensive TV broadcast cameras. Obviously it makes sense for us to use these new apps. Then something happened. We recoiled.
We were afraid. Afraid that the giants whose shoulders we stand on, those teams we love, constantly cover and promote might get upset we were live streaming. We love working with them so obviously we started to think more in depth about this. After all, we constantly hear stories in the news about piracy. So we wanted to make sure we wouldn't upset anyone and this lead us to the question: At a live event, specifically in this case sports event, who owns the actual event itself? I started researching.
I tried to initially look into this by researching how fan created media that is not live is treated. Then to see if the fact that something is now happening live change how we should treat it? This is what I found.
Copyright protection subsists, in accordance with this title, in original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device. -- Richard A. Denmon
Keep in mind I am not a lawyer and this is just my basic current understanding of this confusing new space after some little research. The key word in the above definition of copyright is "fixed." This is important because it creates a big distinction. For example, an event like a broadway musical, concert, ballet or other theatrical performance has every movement staged by the author and is therefore "fixed." This means the copyright lies on the events unfolding on the stage itself.
In the case of sports events though, the events are always random play by play and therefore are not fixed. Meaning the copyright does not lie with the actual event itself. In the case of sports events it turns out that it is actually the broadcasts of the event that is copyrightable. The unique combination of choreographed angles, on screen graphics, announcers, etc. is what makes the live broadcast a fixed piece of copyrightable art. Again, keep in mind I am not a lawyer so please research this for yourself and let me know in the comments if you find anything different.
So it seems, at least to the best of my current knowledge, that the fans who create their own "broadcasts" at live non-fixed sports events on their own devices with unique iPhone camera angles and use their own voice as commentary, etc., would own that copyrightable content. Now keep in mind this is according to this definition of copyright law stated above. As for what abilities you waive when you purchase a ticket to a sports event or enter a stadium I am not sure and it probably varies venue to venue.
My intention today is not to give a definitive answer to the questions I raised though. I am not sure there is one as this new technology is so new. More so my intent is to start the conversation about how this new technology will be treated. Why? Because I find all this incredibly new, interesting and just plain old exciting. I can't wait to see how live mobile streaming reaches its full potential.
Please let me know on Twitter, Periscope or in the comments below if you know or hear of anything further. Looking forward to the discussion. Let's start the conversation.