Will the Premier League see reason over YouTube lawsuit?

Will the Premier League see reason over YouTube lawsuit?


Last month, the FA Premier League filed a class action lawsuit against YouTube for (in my words) “deliberately encouraging users to upload and share short video clips of goals, football skills and controversial incidents to generate public attention and boost traffic.”

The big news this week (or more accurately, Thursday 8th June) is that along with the FA Premier League and Bourne Music, the two parties who filed the initial lawsuit, Cherry Lane Music, Federation Francaise de Tennis (FFT – the French Tennis Association) and Ligue de Football Professionel (LFP – French Ligue 1) have jumped on board the class action lawsuit against YouTube as well.

We’ve discussed this before, and I proposed then that the FA Premier League should consider a paid subscription model to allow football fans to view video clips from all games for a monthly fee. By taking the initiative themselves they would not only attract (and thus take away from YouTube) a considerable number of football fans, but they would also be building a scalable model for other football associations to follow suit and making money while helping fans.

Currently the FAPL seems intent on protecting its copyright as well as that of the member clubs, but seemingly has no idea how to deal with fans who do NOT get the opportunity to catch all the highlights on TV or go watch the actual matches. Individual clubs (such as Manchester United) do have a paid subscription model in place that lets them provide club-related football video footage on their site in exchange for a small monthly fee.

It works, and if the folks at ManUtd.com were better at marketing this membership service, I’m sure that more people would join (Mark, if you read this, consider this an open offer :) ).

There are a couple of topics that I think are worth highlighting here:

It IS a big deal

US-based news watchers will probably hear about ‘English Premier League’ and dismiss the lawsuit as ‘not a big thing’. The reality is the EPL is the most watched football / soccer league around the world, and YouTube has a MASSIVE football following who do nothing else but upload match clips and search for more football videos to share.

Compromise is expected, but very difficult

Everyone is expecting the suing parties to eventually arrive at an agreement with YouTube. I won’t disregard that possibility, but considering that the EPL and YouTube were, for several months, involved in removing vidoes and suspending accounts, you have to consider the possibility that a licensing deal has already been offered by Google and rejected by the EPL.

Knowing the head-in-the-sand nature of the English footballing authorities, I wouldn’t be surprised if they pushed this lawsuit the full course, unless of course there is significant media criticism of the FAPL’s position, and at the moment that seems unlikely.

The ideal solution

We already know the alternatives to YouTube (won’t mention them here though) – and it’s quite easy to acquire ripped football clips directly from the people who cap matches and produce these clips.

Whatever happens with the lawsuit, football fans WILL find another way to get what they want.

The problem is not about catching the free-riders – no matter what the English Premier League does, people will find a way to watch the weekend’s goals for free. No matter what the RIAA does, people will listen to pirated / downloaded music for free and won’t be caught.

The challenge is to monetize their intellectual property in such a way that it benefits both sides – the producers (in this case, the FAPL) and the consumers (us, the football fans).

Put another way, if you were given unlimited (view-only) access to all Premiership goals, would you pay $10 per month?

I think that monetizing video footage from Premiership games is the right way to go forward, and the Premier League has to take initiative here. Eventually, maybe they can work on providing an automated video clipping service that gives us video clips based on the time delimiters we provide (so, for example, if I wanted to see the footage from 34:12 to 35:41, it would automatically edit the base match footage in the backend and give me a clip to download.

Of course, video editing on the fly such as this would be part of a premium membership.

But it’s all about taking initiative and taking actions that benefits your end users.

The class action lawsuit against YouTube won’t help anyone.

Also see:

Premier League sues YouTube – no more free videos?
Premier League vs YouTube – a misguided attack on the wrong target

Manchester United - 06/07 Season Review - again
WTF News of the Day: Ribery Signs for Bayern


  1. Totally agree. Nice article. As a football crazy fan living in the US(where they have a cheap imitation for the same name), the only way i watch the games that i miss is through youtube. Even if they stop, you’re right there are hundreds of alternatives and I’ll make sure that I use them all to catch up on the goals………..

  2. The ideal solution- in the world of capitalism one is permitted to sell his mother as long as the price is right. Monetizing video footage is a user pay policy like VAT” value added tax” a tax on consumption. Question remains why football popularity among masses should be in monopoly of few master capitalists, at the expense of fans. EPL should be thankful to YouTube because of indirect promotion of the game by using other people’s resources free of charge such as video camera, individual’s time, and admission fee for the match.

  3. The big problem is that the Premier League’s claim is perfectly valid. Everytime someone uses Youtube to watch highlights of a match Youtube profit through advertising revenues, and even if it is a tiny amount it all adds up rather quickly. Surely Youtube and the Premier league could come up with some sort of arrangment where advertising money is split 50/50 and official highlights are uploaded for people to watch, with free clips of average quality and high quality video made available for subscribers.

  4. How can the premier league’s claim be valid? Do you mean to say that every second of premier league action on public viewing should be profittable to them? C’mom we are just viewing a few goals, given a choice to watch matches live on tv, we would happily do it. We view the goals when we cannot watch the games. And even if that viewing is say about 2 days after the actual game, the EPL wants a piece of that money. What jerks………

  5. Becuase I live in Australia and dont have Cable TV i cant watch any football exept for the Champions League…Even our own national team the socceroos aremnt on free to air tele..SHITE. I think that a Pay-Per-View type site of the Premiership should come on the air. Like maybe a Monthly subscription maybe u can pay (in aus dollars)$1.75 pew Match, Id pay that to see teh gunners play.

  6. iqnadirshah, I meant the Premier league’s claim was valid in that it will probably stand up in court.I agree that it is pretty lousy that they are suing over this but like so many other companies before them the premier league are attempting to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. As the article states there are already a hundred and one alternatives to Youtube showing premier league clips for free. I suppose the Premier League could argue they are trying to protect their deals with mobile operators like Vodafone and Three for highlight clips…

  7. Well, I am trying to get AFL highlights on the internet. I live in the US, and no sports channel (including Fox Soccer Channel) seems to carry any highlights any more. It seems you have to fork over about $50 a year for a subscription to watch days old video streams, which are slow and frequently pause the action. Well, the outfit selling the service called BigPond.com is a big rip-off. I can get perfectly good video feeds with the live coverage by subscription to Wimbledon.org. The BigPond site is complicated, overdone, and not worth it! Avoid it at all costs! To top it off, they have a no refund policy once you subscribe. I thought I would warn others of this ripoff. It is a shame that the “leaders” running the AFL would sell the rights to their product to such an inferior broadband provider. I love the AFL, but highlight packages are impossible to find or not worth the bother (ie. Big Pond). I guess we in the US are spoiled with the superior grade of our web technology. The AFL will never become popular or prosper internationally with such poor presentation of their game highlights on the web. It is a darn shame since the AFL is so much fun to watch. Ripped off. Beau, West Virginia, USA

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