For football fans who haven’t shelled out for a subscription to a sports channel or fallen asleep on the couch before their team’s game is featured on Match of the Day, YouTube has provided the perfect – albeit unofficial – catch-up service.
Supporters have been logging on and watching match highlights at their convenience. Last weekend, a clip of nearly every Premiership goal was uploaded to the site by fans, and many from the lower divisions and Scottish leagues as well.
But, as internet users enjoy the action on their laptops, the Premier League, which rakes in billions of pounds by auctioning the rights to broadcast live matches and highlights in exclusive screening deals, launched plans to sue for copyright infringement.
It started legal action in the US District Court in New York claiming unspecified damages and accusing YouTube Inc and its corporate parent company, Google, of exploiting material it does not own.
The league also alleged that the website had deliberately used the copyrighted footage to draw people to the site and boost interest. The American music publisher Bourne is bringing a similar case.
Google warned that the case could set a precedent about how the internet is run and said the Premier League’s lawsuit was an attack on the freedom to communicate over the web and, ultimately, on “artistic expression”.
Indeed, there’s no greater form of artistic expression than uploading a video of Joey Barton exposing himself to Everton fans.