Aug 19, 2009

Apparently, Roy Jones Jr. is taking on all opponents…in, and out of the ring.

The 41 year old boxer’s promotional company Square Ring, Inc,  is suing the video streaming company Ustream for “massive and blatant” copyright infringement.  The suit stems from a March 21st fight between Jones and Omar Sheika, a fight that was supposed to be pay-per-view but was broadcast to more than 2,000 users by a Ustream user who had purchased the contest.

Apparently, Square Ring had attempted to contact Ustream pre-fight to stop any illegal broadcasts, but to no avail.  More info, and a copy of the complaint, from Tech Crunch,

Following the illegal exhibition of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Broadcast on USTREAM’s website on March 21, 2009, notifying Defendants of the copyright and trademark infringements and, in a good faith effort to avoid litigation, requested information pursuant to Rules 26 and 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Plaintiff’s letter further advised Defendants that, to Plaintiff’s knowledge, they permitted approximately 2,377 users to view Plaintiff’s pay-per-view program completely free of charge, in violation of Plaintiff’s rights. To date, Defendants have neither complied with Plaintiff’s request nor responded to Plaintiff’s letter…

Tech Crunch was able to get a reply from Ustream (better luck than Square Ring, I guess)

Ustream is serious about complying with the copyright laws and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and we’re aggressively taking short- and long-term steps to work with the content industry to meet their needs. We believe the Square Ring lawsuit does not have merit and that we’re fully protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act Safe Harbor provisions.

The DMCA safe harbor provisions can be found here.  Although it looks, on its face, as if Ustream is correct; they will be protected by the safe harbor provisions, you do have to question their willingness to prevent copyright infrigement.  Square Ring contacted them pre-fight, and made reasonable requests to stop infringment…all of which fell on deaf ears.  On the other hand, is it Ustreams fault for not complying with the requests when it appears as if their inactivity is still within the letter of the law?  Probably not.  But, what do these sort of actions mean for future sports broadcasts?  Companys like Justin.tv and Ustream are becoming increasingly more popular, in part because of the increasing technical savvy of computer users and in other part because famous athletes are using the program.   Is the NFL going to hunt down every illegal broadcast of one of its games during the NFL season? Probably not.  But what if those sites get 3 more years of growth and popularity, and technical capability? We’ve seen situations like this before in the music world with the various lawsuits filed against file sharing companies like Napster or Rapidshare; they’ve lead to years of litigation and millions in legal fees.   The question now is whether or not this case will be an outlier or if it is just the beginning for the next big legal battle in the world of sports and sports entertainment.

The bell for Round 1 has just sounded.

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