Old media censorship on new media?

I’ve took part to that nice event called the “Twitter Developer Nest”, that is basically a meeting for people interested in developing applications over twitter.

There have been nice talks and presentation of old and new Twitter apps, including and amazingly funny presentation by @aszolty on his BakerTweet systems (which quite interestingly merges three things I’ve been looking at lately: Twitter, Arduino, and the idea of bringing pieces of technology to uncommon areas).

What I found very mind-stimulating was the talk by Ollie Parsley (@ollieparsley) about his FootyTweets service. Basically, this service sent out twits with live matches updates, using accounts related to football teams.

Having become hugely successful (>4K followers for the Manchester United), he received a “Cease and Desist” notice fromĀ Football DataCo (read here and here for some coverage), who are the “owner” of football fixtures updates.

Exception made for a couple of naif issues (e.g. Ollie used copyrighted club logos to represent the teams, which he promptly replaced with self-designed images), the C&D notice was focused on the service of live update itself. Which raises several interesting points.

I see Twitter (and many other people do) as a shout-from-your-window-and-see-who-listens service. That is, Ollie was basically telling everyone “look, Arsenal scored one minute ago“. No need to say he didn’t charge any money (but from the point of view of FootBall DataCo this does not matter as it’s lost profit anyway).

Legally speaking, it’s an interesting issue as some questions can be raised:
- what if I text a friend whilst I’m at the stadium telling him live that our team scored a goal?
- what if do the same using twitter?
- what if Ollie retweets me rather than running the service by his own? who’s infringing data ownership, me or him?
- are we sure that letting people know live fixture actually represents a threat to Football DataCo’s profits? what if it instead drives *more* people to be interested in getting live fixture, with better service levels, turning into more profits?

No answers by now, and Ollie had to stop the match update service.

What is evident to me, though, is that this is the quintessential legal case for the Web 2.0, which is by nature social/collaborative, real-time, and involving mash-ups. I honestly think that old media law about data ownership and copyright can be applied to Web 2.0 only by blocking all services. tout-court. In fact, if you focus on the example before, retweeting from other people – that is exactly the form of crowd sourcing that Ollie is thinking of – you will realize soon that you can identify who is committing infringement of what law. It’s the crowd, in a certain sense, but your acts alone are not against the law.
Being one of the fundamental principles of law the fact that the responsibility for a certain unlawful act personal, who should be sued?

I don’t have many hopes here, but I think that we need some form of Law 2.0, which does not mean – as web-opponents usually claim – that the Web doesn’t want rules.

3 thoughts on “Old media censorship on new media?

  1. Awesome blog post :)

    Did you enjoy the @devnest?

    The tricky part of the new form of match updates is crowd sourcing. Somehow there needs to be a way to collect all the data. Maybe if everyone uses the correct hashtags or @repies etc.

    If you or anyone reading this has any ideas please let me know :)

    Ollie
    http://twitter.com/ollieparsley

  2. I agree completely on the *shout-from-your-window-and-see-who-listens service*

    Twitter is not a traditional publishing method, and I don’t think that the same rules that apply to print media should try to be applied to the web.

    The whole ‘no money is being made from the service’ isn’t an excuse, but it is a valid point. You could argue that the fact that it is free makes it so popular.

    I was so interested in Ollie’s project that I offered to design a template which all the sites could use (we went on to collaborate in the H1 Debate).

    I’m a huge football and F1 fan, and I have used the service from the very beginning. I have visited the team websites more often than I ever did, and it allowed me to see their news in a different format. The fast-paced match updates were perfectly suited to Twitter, as an RSS feed would have been too slow, and not the right media format.

    I hope something can be resolved in time for the 2009/10 football season.

  3. @ollie I think that the natural way of doing that would be via @replies, as this way you already have on your profile all the messages. Nonetheless, I find it interesting from a legal perspective: I just wonder what Football DataCo would say in this case :-)
    The reasons for which I’m not that optimistic is that they just try everything to make people not damage their (believed) interests, on the threat of a legal suit that I, for example, could not afford…

    @paul i guess the problem is merely of an old fashioned position over an evolving world. they cannot see that being popular actually helps making more money. And legally speaking, the only problem is that I cannot afford a solicitor if I’m not a big corporation: that makes every attempt risky. The big fish eats the little fish :-) Of course I’m exaggerating, but you can see what I mean.

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