Justin.tv accused of bending it like Beckham

Video site is in trouble with the U.K.'s Premier League, which accuses it of illegally streaming soccer matches.

If you thought Justin.tv was just some bloke walking around with a camera on his head, then you have less faith in Web 2.0 than you should.

That's because the site's ingenuity (or, depending on your perspective, ingenuousness or even disingenuousness) has got it a red card from the U.K.'s Premier League and its TV partners.

It seems that Justin.tv, in all its innocence, has been broadcasting live Premier League soccer matches, the rights to which happen to be owned by the Premier League and channels such as Fox and Setanta.

However, it depends on how you would like to define "broadcasting." You see, Justin.tv has expanded on its original idea by allowing anyone who fancies it to launch a TV channel on its site.

This means you can watch Dennis.tv, a live broadcast of a singer from Florida, whose hair looks like it was painted on his head by a local contractor.

It also means that you can watch any number of channels launched by people who are watching live televised soccer in many parts of the world.

These people, in the interests of world fan harmony, helpfully point their Webcams at their TV screens. They do this so that those in, say, the U.K., who happen not to be able to enjoy the game live (either because they don't pay for the appropriate channel or because the appropriate channel is not screening it in the U.K. that day), can hiss for every miss and cheer with every beer.

For some, this might seem an active and charitable example of social networking--people from all parts of the world being brought together to enjoy the same experience.

For those who own the rights to these events it's, well, bootlegging--the equivalent of that scratchy Springsteen tape you bought in the Village or Camden Market in 1987.

The picture quality isn't perfect, but you can see enough. And those with the fattest tummies and wallets don't get paid.

This work of art is entitled "TV on YouTube on my Wii on my wall." CC Dan Taylor

You will be teary-eyed to discover that the Premier League is now threatening legal action against Justin.tv.

You see, a recent Justin.tv broadcast of a Manchester United game enjoyed 167,138 hits. And some fine and altruistic executive multiplied that number by the cost of a cable subscription and thought: "Aha. Lawsuit."

The U.K.'s Premier League has gorged itself on so much money that it has yet to perceive its own indigestion. With no salary cap, the richest clubs attract some of the world's finest players, many of whom enjoy the money and a spectacularly tasteless lifestyle without necessarily exerting themselves too much against teams of desperately inferior quality.

Imagine if the NFL could only be won by one of four teams every year. That is the Premier League.

So perhaps some might find surprising that 167,138 people would want to watch matches that are, in the majority, rather predictable. Still, why bother to make your product more interesting and equitable when you can go after Justin.tv?

"As rights holders we believe what Justin.tv is doing amounts to piracy," Setanta Sports marketing director told News Of The World. "It contravenes the owners' rights which has implications for us. We are working closely with the Premier League and other rights holders to clamp down on piracy such as that represented by Justin.tv."

See if you can balance those words with Justin.tv's mission statement: "The company's mission is to enable viewers and broadcasters to interact and exchange ideas in real time through chat and live video."

Perhaps there are those who might be stricken temporarily dumb on learning that Justin.tv enjoys the spectacle of ads on its site. Many are, naturally, ads by Google.

Wouldn't that be the same Google that owns YouTube? You know, that site with all the entirely legally-obtained TV shows and music videos.

Anyone know of a good Law 2.0 conference?

 

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