Earlier last month marked the most hyped boxing match in quite some time. Saturday, May 2, 2015 was the day that pinned Floyd Mayweather Jr. v. Manny Pacquiao, which produced 4.4 million pay-per-view purchases. Mayweather Jr. was declared the winner of the fight, but Twitter CEO Dick Costolo simultaneously tweeted that Periscope was the real winner that night. Twitter owns the new application Periscope, which is a video sharing app with the capabilities of live streaming video content. On that night, almost 10,000 people were logged-in on a single broadcast of the fight through the video streaming application.
The issue with this and other similar mobile applications is that they are giving users the ability to relay videos of protected copyrighted material. HBO and Showtime paid to be the exclusive broadcasters of the fight, but Periscope users that were at the fight or even viewing at home were able to simultaneously broadcast the fight through their devices to non-paying customers. It may not have been the best quality, but nevertheless it violated HBO and Showtime’s copyright protection. In just the first few minutes of the fight, Periscope received 66 complaints of illegal broadcasts going out through their program to an incalculable audience.
Those copyright concerns are similar to the ones that YouTube faced when it first started. Users began uploading music, TV shows, and movies that were protected copyright material at rates too fast for the company to keep track of. The site combatted the worries by creating a system that would remove all videos and all users uploading copyrighted material, while also issuing notifications through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The same approach is not likely to work with Periscope and other video sharing programs because they let users live stream and not upload content, which makes it very difficult to track down. Theoretically, entities that are being infringed on only have a window of 24 hours to find the perpetrator and to file a takedown request. The best argument in favor of apps like Periscope is to argue that they are merely just a third party hosting service and are not responsible for their users actions. However, opposing parties feel like they are more like Napster by creating and promoting a way to infringe.
Moreover, companies like HBO fear that this problem will continue and enhance. Not only do they worry about their pay per view products like the Mayweather Jr. vs. Pacquiao fight, but they have already seen disturbances with their popular shows like Game of Thrones. Similarly, professional sport leagues are worried and have already begun to take action. The NBA prohibits media members from live streaming anything besides press conferences and the NFL is currently monitoring both Meerkat and Periscope to determine what action they need to take for the upcoming season. The Mayweather Jr. vs. Pacquio fight was just the beginning of a long, contested legal battle in the copyright realm.