Good news for Americans who don’t have pay TV and want to watch the World Cup final on Sunday: Germany-Argentina will air on ABC, so you can watch the game on any set connected to an antenna.
Bad news for Twitter users who have grown used to watching World Cup highlights without turning on a TV set at all: Twitter has shut down @ReplayLastGoal, an account that automatically generated and displayed GIFs and video clips of the tournament’s goals, immediately after they happened.
Xavier Damman, the developer who created the account, reported last night that Twitter had shut it down. This was presumably at the behest of FIFA, the soccer association that runs the World Cup and assigns TV rights to the games, since Damman said FIFA had sent a takedown notice to Twitter at the end of last month.
It’s the latest move by FIFA, and some of the networks that are carrying the games, to crack down on sites and services that were replaying highlights without permission. Many of them, including Damman, have argued that showing game highlights — via GIFs, Vines, Instagram clips of TV sets, whatever — constitutes “fair use,” but that’s a famously fuzzy concept, and FIFA and the TV guys seem to have moved against some of the most obvious targets.
ReplayLastGoal didn’t seem to be a huge offender, at least in terms of its aggregate audience. The last time I checked its follower count, a few weeks ago, it was in the single-digit thousands. But it was relatively high-profile in media circles: The small-but-influential Nieman Journalism Lab, for instance, wrote approvingly of the service; so did TechCrunch, which admonished FIFA to embrace the account, “TV rights be damned.”
Given that those TV rights are probably worth more than $4 billion this year, you won’t see FIFA or the TV guys looking away from this stuff anytime soon, even though they know that keeping it off the Web entirely is a whack-a-mole game they’ll never win.
Related: I do wonder how Twitter will approach this stuff for other big global sports events. Right now, the company’s approach is to leave anything and everything up until it gets DMCA takedown requests, more or less like YouTube. Unlike YouTube, however, Twitter doesn’t seem to have an expedited process available to let copyright holders pull stuff off the site.
In ReplayLastGoal’s case, for instance, it seems to have taken Twitter 11 days to take the account offline.
But Twitter is also the same company that’s basing much of its sales strategy around the idea that it’s working with TV programmers, not against them. One of its highest-profile ad products, for instance, lets programmers take sports highlight reels and turn them into ads minutes after they run on TV. That pitch may be harder to make if those highlights are already up on Twitter.