Jack Reeve's heartfelt plea to the EFL to repeal their new ban on fans filming anything inside English Football League grounds, was heard around the world (except maybe in Preston and London where the EFL have their headquarters.
Here is Texas based City fan, turned amateur lawyer, on how the ban effects Canaries abroad and it's potential illegality.
By Marc Foster
I thought I’d spend a few words addressing the EFL’s new stance on the recording and posting of fan media from a perspective across the pond.
Let me start out by saying that Jack Reeve’s Youtube channel is an absolute joy to watch. As it does for many fans outside Norfolk, it provides me a window that is otherwise unavailable. Jack’s passion for the club and the game is both enormous and infectious, and it comes through wonderfully in his videos.
It’s exactly the sort of thing clubs and the EFL should be encouraging. But unfortunately they see it as a revenue threat, and as something they can’t control.
The EFL wants to grow their product/brand. I get that. I get it because I’m selfish - I want them to grow, too. I want the world to see this game and the culture that surrounds it, and the more it grows the easier it will be for me to see and enjoy it, especially during seasons like this when Norwich isn’t in the Premier League.
But the EFL is missing a bigger picture with fan videos. We all want to grow the product (you have no idea how hard it is promoting NCFC in Texas). If we didn’t we wouldn’t be doing anything other than watching the game quietly in the stands or in the living room. However, by exerting too much control, the EFL is at risk of;
1) Impeding the growth it wants
2) Possibly turning fans actively against the EFL and the game itself
We’re seeing that in the USA. MLS is slowly (and finally) approaching a critical mass of sustainable support and exposure, but teams and the league are struggling to find a balance in their handling of the fans who are chomping at the bit to develop the same game culture they see on TV for games abroad. It’s hard to believe there are Ultras in the USA, but it’s become an issue.
But getting back on topic, the EFL own neither the culture nor atmosphere that Jack Reeve and others are helping promote through their videos. Neither do the TV networks. The fans make that culture. Yes, the EFL, the FA, and FIFA can steer and guide the culture through various means, but it’s still the fans driving it. It’s a positive culture that Jack is promoting. It’s something that the EFL should be doing themselves, or at least allow others to carry the water for them without all this hassle.
So, legally speaking, what is going on?
To be fair there’s a lot I don’t know about this situation. Who came up with the rule? The EFL or the broadcasters? That’s unfortunate because it makes it difficult to resolve situations like this when everyone passes the buck. The steward blames the club who blames the EFL. I’m not sure if it is ultimately the broadcasters who are flexing this muscle, but at the end of the day I’m not sure it matters because I think it can be fixed regardless.
Over here we’ve had a lot of issues on Youtube and elsewhere in the new media about things like this. Content owners (broadcasters, record labels, etc.) have been rather heavy-handed in trying to control their content, lest it become devalued through free dissemination. As part of this they’ve gone to the sites that house the content and sent their nasty DMCA notices requesting the removal of content. The hosting sites, not wanting to waste resources evaluating claims for veracity, have a policy of taking the content down first and making the person who posted it file a counter claim if they are legally in the clear. More often than not the poster is frightened of all the legal threats and language and never files a counter, and the content stays down. Taking advantage of this process, content owners have turned into bullies, knowingly requesting invalid takedowns. The reason they are invalid is because of something in the poster’s favor called Fair Use (Fair Dealing in the UK).
While there are subtle differences in in the concept between the two countries, but the basic elements are the same. The relevant elements here are the copyright exclusions for the purposes of reporting, criticism, or review. If you’re doing one of these 3 things, you have limited rights to the content that is the subject matter, and you don’t have to be credentialed media to have those rights.
I think Jack might be able to use this exclusion, and I think I know a club that’s sympathetic to and appreciative enough of 1 channel that they might tell the EFL to back off on the rule and allow Jack soldier on.
Or… the club could remove all doubt and credential Jack. This has actually been done here in the States for about a decade, as teams adapted to and learned to embrace the new media. I haven’t talked directly with Jack so I don’t know if this was discussed with the club Thursday, but just because he would be credentialed doesn’t mean he has to stay up in a stuffy press booth.
But to be clear, just because the EFL is bullying everyone into thinking they own the content outside the lines of the pitch, doesn’t mean they necessarily do. The fans created and own that atmosphere, that content. If the EFL wants to create their own fan channels and spread this culture, that’s their prerogative. But they’re not doing it now, nor are they losing revenue from the others who do it.
The EFL doesn’t understand this. To use a proper English analogy, they’ve got some beautiful wildflowers in their garden, but because they didn’t plant them their first reaction is to yank them out… when appreciating and nurturing them would make the garden look much better.
On the ball, y’all.
You can follow Marc on Twitter via @LoneStarCanary