·  by Nathan Leamer

Hey NFL, leave my GIFs alone!

Originally Posted On: R Street

It appears the National Football League is cracking down on the unauthorized proliferation of GIFs and Vines of league-owned content.

Sometimes these snippets are of funny incidents or for serious study of various facets of the game. Two of the biggest violators, Deadspin and SBNation, recently were suspended by Twitter for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act after receiving takedown notices from the NFL. Twitter has since reinstated Deadspin’s Twitter handle, but the whole episode has restarted a debate about copyright and fair use.

As an avid Philadelphia Eagles fan I am frustrated that this episode could foreshadow a disruption in my regular sports consumption. My fandom isn’t confined to game days but continues throughout the week, as Philly native Bradley Cooper explains:

This is more than a season, this is a marathon of Sundays, Mondays and holidays of overly aggressive couch high fives, of weekday water cooler therapy sessions and nights spent tossing, turning and toiling over the perfect fantasy team name because ‘Ertz So Good’ was taken.

Between games, I spend many hours (too many, in fact) reading the latest from blogs like igglesblitz.com or tweets from BleedingGreen for updates about my team’s depth chart, info on draft prospects and analysis on Sam Bradford’s throwing motion. These are all things I would never pick up during the TV broadcast. Through these snippets, I gain a new appreciation for subtleties of the game.

I also like these blogs and media outlets because they are NOT the official stances from the team or league. While NFL.com and the official Philadelphia Eagles Twitter account regularly post “authorized” highlights, their perspective always seems too shallow. I prefer reading independent observers who are more critical and honest and who don’t gloss over inconvenient truths ignored by the organization.

The daily dose of sports reading isn’t limited to football. My hometown baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies, are notorious for being the last organization in Major League Baseball to embrace enhanced analytics. No one at Phillies.com or on the Phillies Twitter handle is giving in-depth perspective from a sabermetrics point of view. So for a Billy Beane-style take, I turn to sites like crashburnalley.com, which takes a more complex and holistic perspective on all things Phillies.

These unofficial Phillies blogs, like the Eagles fan sites, frequently use GIFs and Vines to enhance their posts. The new uses of multimedia draw me to the sport and athletes in a way that the official sites never will. Being a casual fan is one thing, but I want to take my fanaticism to the next level.

From my vantage point, these GIFs and Vines constitute fair use, and would pass the famous four-factors test. But I am fully aware that big special interests like the NFL, NCAA and MLB see things differently and will use every legal means at their disposal to take them down. This inevitable legal battle is truly ridiculous, because these unofficial clips draw more fans attention to their team, inspiring them to buy merchandise, attend games or pass their fandom to the next generation. Any efforts to undermine this interest in the game really hurt the leagues because could turn off more fans.

GIFs and Vines are just a couple of ways sports fans consume information and content in radically different ways than a generation ago. Sports leagues should embrace the change, as customers enjoy and share their products, or risk turning off potential fans. No one is going to replace watching the Super Bowl or World Series with snippets like GIFs and Vines, but they will use these new mediums to supplement and enjoy the games.

Case in point: tonight, the Eagles are playing the New York Giants on Monday Night Football in an epic NFC East showdown. As part of my game day routine, I like to watch pump-up videos of my team and specifically revisit moments when my team beat the Giants. My favorite video to watch is of the Eagles amazing comeback over the Giants in 2010. It is colloquially known as the “Miracle at the New Meadowlands.”

For years, the best video on youtube of this was one that synced up the Fox video broadcast with audio of the Eagles radio broadcast, featuring the legendary voice of Merrill Reese. It is an incredible video to watch, but unfortunately, last year it was taken down for copyright violations.  It really isn’t hard to see how this was unlicensed and unauthorized by Fox, the Eagles or the NFL, but regardless it was an amazing video to enjoy. I would literally get goose bumps watching it.

Thankfully, someone recently reposted it on a French video-streaming site called Daily Motion, where Eagles fans watch and enjoy the memories. That’s not because we are copyright pirates, but because it is the only place where we can relive the magic of that moment and share it with our children and friends. The video is a marketing tool that exposes people to the NFL and not an outlet to cheat the league.

On another note, the proliferation of unauthorized GIFs and Vines also have an additional benefit for the NFL. After reading all these in-depth analyses I am more likely to have an overly inflated confidence in my fantasy-football skills, making me a potential gambler (err, I mean, player) on FanDuel or DraftKings, which has a pretty lucrative deal with Roger Goodell… but that’s another story.

In the meantime, GO EAGLES!