Major League Soccer Abusing The DMCA To Censor Controversial Clip Of Player Misconduct

Back in 2008, we wrote about how Major League Soccer (MLS) was abusing the DMCA to take down video clips which it had absolutely no copyrights over (the event was not filmed or broadcast by MLS) because it didn’t like the content (showing a fight that broke out at the soccer match). It appears that MLS has not learned that you cannot abuse the DMCA just because you don’t like what the clip shows, as it appears to have done it again. Big time soccer fan (and big time free speech lawyer) Paul Alan Levy noticed recently that a YouTube clip showing Houston Dynamo player Colin Clark calling a ball boy a “faggot” for not throwing the ball to him properly, had been taken down via a DMCA copyright claim from MLS.

As Levy notes, the controversy around what happened resulted in a widespread discussion among fans about the incident, including comparisons to the recent controversy over racist statements by fans in the UK. It also resulted in a public apology from Clark. And yet, still, MLS took down the video.

Levy reached out to the guy who posted the video and sent a letter on his behalf, pointing out that MLS clearly broke the law in not considering fair use before issuing the takedown. The letter lays out why the 20-second video (from a 2-hour match) was clearly, without a doubt, fair use, and how the takedown violates the clear language of the DMCA. He notes that the guy who uploaded the video is a big MLS fan (as is Levy), and they don’t want to burden MLS with a lawsuit, but would like MLS to take the following steps:

  1. Explain how it made the decision to issue a DMCA takedown notice to YouTube.
  2. Promptly inform YouTube that it is withdrawing its takedown notice.
  3. Express regret to Mr. Vega for the takedown notice.
  4. Put procedures into place to ensure that fair use receives full consideration before any takedown notice is issued.
  5. Disclose publicly both what procedures have been adopted, and what standards MLS is providing to its representatives to ensure that they give proper consideration to fair use before issuing takedown notices in the future.

Seems like an easy way out, but who knows if anyone at MLS will even pay attention enough to care.

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