The Premier League shouldn’t be trying to police Vines, it should be monetising them

Following London Cab drivers versus Uber in the latest case of closing the virtual stable door long after the digital horse has bolted, the Premier League today (15 August) launched a PR drive in an attempt to ward off Vine users from sharing near-live clips from the competition, which kicks off this weekend.

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In a futile attempt at scaremongering, the Premier League said today that tweeting, vining and any other social sharing of goals and other highlights from matches is illegal because the unofficial content breaches copyright.

Speaking with the BBC’s Newsbeat programme the Premier League’s director of communications Dan Johnson said the league was currently developing technologies like GIF-crawlers and Vine-crawlers and that it is working with Twitter in a bid to curtail the clips from being posted.

He added: “I know it sounds as if we’re killjoys, but we have to protect our intellectual property.”

It doesn’t make you sound like killjoys, Dan. It just makes you sound a bit silly.

The Premier League hasn’t the resources to embark on a giant game of internet cat and mouse. As soon as one Vine account is shut down, two more will spring up in its place.

This form of policing also smacks of a slippery slope. Technically, fans inside stadiums filming and sharing videos of their teams clinching a win with a last minute penalty and the ensuing hugs and celebrations are in breach of copyright too. Will the Premier League’s crawlers extend to them? Could smartphones even be banned from stadiums?

It probably doesn’t matter. Enthusiastic fans, masked with the power of the crowd, are unlikely to heed any warnings.

Which is why the Premier League shouldn’t be focusing its effort on preventing Vines from being posted. It should be posting them itself – and perhaps monetising the videos too.

Vine owner Twitter’s Amplify programme was set up in 2013 to offer brands the opportunity to sponsor real-time or dual-screen video clips embedded within tweets.

A superb contextual example of Amplify in action was during this year’s World Cup. Official broadcaster ITV signed up Paddy Power as the sponsor of video highlights tweeted out during key matches. The partnership was “amplified” through promoted tweets, spreading the reach of the content.

Why can’t the Premier League do the same, using one of its official sponsors to foot the bill for the promoted tweets? Such action wouldn’t wipe out this practice of copyright infringement altogether, but promoting the clips from an official channel would no doubt make users more likely to view official content rather than searching for a dodgy, shaky iPhone clip of someone’s telly.

It could be argued that today’s PR campaign was simply an effort to placate The Sun and The Times owner News UK, which last year forked out an undisclosed (but likely large) amount to become the exclusive UK online broadcaster of near-live Premier League highlights across its digital and mobile properties. No doubt The Premier League has been given short shrift from the newspaper publisher, which has invested in broadcasting clips behind a paywall that everyone can just see for free with a simple search of Twitter. It’s like trying to sell a copy of the Evening Standard for 50p outside Oxford Circus tube whilst standing next to one of the paper’s distributors.

While the motive for today’s PR crusade may not be entirely clear, more certain is the fact that the Premier League has been short-sighted in its approach to social. By embracing social media rather than attacking it, the Premier League could spread the reach of the brand and open up a new revenue opportunity to boot.