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Has The NFL Heard of The Fair Use Doctrine?

Thursday, September 17, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 8:30 AM, under , , ,

Cris Collinsworth of NBC Sunday Night Football and Showtime's Inside the NFL was in the spotlight last week. It was not for stellar play calling, but because of a 25-year old video clip from a NBC Sports NFL broadcast. The clip featured Collinsworth talking about his approach to dating. The clip is now gone from YouTube because the NFL asserted its ownership via copyright.

A Video Chopblock?: The NFL has asserted its copyright ownership
and had the Cris Collinsworth "dating" video clip removed from YouTube.

In all, the clip was originally one minute and 47 seconds. In isolation on YouTube, the NFL was certainly within its rights to have the video removed.

But in the grander scheme of things, the video offered perfect context for discussion of changes in society and how the seemingly innocent comments, in the context of time and societal mores, can come back to haunt someone even 25 years later.

Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright law sets out four factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair (note points three and four, emphasis added):
    1. 1. The purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes
    2. 2. The nature of the copyrighted work
    3. 3. The amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole
    4. 4. The effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyrighted work
So I wonder what the NFL would do if I posted the video on this site, in the context of a larger long form article discussing the issue in a larger context?

Since their lawyers are bigger than mine, I think I might pass this time around. At the same time though, I wonder if fear through intimidation and the monopolistic hold the NFL has on their media collateral makes everyone cower when presented with a take down notice.

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