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Do Sports Clips Fall Under Fair use? The Jury is Still out

As social media continues to grow in popularity, the more it becomes ingrained into our daily lives. For many people, social media has replaced face-to-face interactions with people and for some, it even replaces watching the news.

But because of social media’s immediate access to content, social media companies – and sometimes even their users – find themselves walking into a legal gray area, especially in regards to intellectual property rights. It’s an issue that some of our California readers may be following, as it has cropped up in the news in recent months because of issues concerning NFL sports clips.

Though the NFL has been taking aggressive legal actions to prevent copyright infringement and protect its intellectual property rights over exclusive programming and sports clips, some believe users and social media companies may have the right to fair use. If this is the case, then the NFL would need to be more cautious about sending out cease and desist letters and takedown notices in the future.

As you may already know, fair use is a legal doctrine used in copyright law that protects an individual or group of people from legal action for using a protected work without the owner’s permission, provided the work falls under the specific terms of fair use. In the case of sports clips, one might argue that posting the clips may be done for journalist purposes or to comment on them, which are both reasons allowed under the terms of fair use.

Though the U.S. Court of Appeals recently ruled that companies “must consider the existence of fair use before sending a takedown notification,” addressing whether something should be considered protected under fair use or not does still need to be addressed on a case by case basis. It’s for this reason that the jury is still out on whether sports clips should fall under the terms of fair use at this time.

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