Football chiefs to fine YouTube schoolboy £5,000

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BUCKIE Thistle may not enjoy the sophisticated multi-camera TV coverage afforded to more illustrious clubs.

But for two years David Smith has stoically filmed his beloved Buckie and posted the footage on YouTube for the enjoyment of the elderly, housebound and loyal fans off-shore and abroad.

The ten-minute clips, complete with team credits, have earned a cult following on the internet, but the Highland League has now threatened the schoolboy with a 5,000 fine for breach of copyright.

Despite the fact that Buckie FC games are not filmed by the Highland League and rarely attract more than 500 fans at home games, the league secretary was so annoyed by the footage that he tracked down the 16-year-old and has issued him with a red card.

At a recent game the league's secretary, John Grant, confronted David and said he would be issued with a 5,000 fine.

Yesterday, the Buckie High School pupil said: "I was just setting up at the back of the stand for recording the match. John Grant came up and immediately said he was fining me 5,000, saying it was illegal. It was quite alarming.

"He asked for my contact details, and I'm still waiting to hear if I've definitely been fined. I've done it for two years and I've never been contacted by the league or the SFA. I was stunned."

The treatment of the young fan has been condemned by the president of Buckie FC, Mark Duncan, who insisted he has the club's full support. Fans as far away as India, Estonia and Australia, who watch the game online, have already e-mailed to complain and an online petition has attracted more than a hundred names.

Mr Duncan said the teenager provided a fantastic service to fans and e hoped Mark could continue filming the games. Mr Duncan said he had been approached by the youngster's concerned father, also David, 40, in the boardroom at half-time.

Mr Duncan said: "To think that someone could be fined for giving up their own time, both in attending matches and the numerous hours spent in editing into highlights, only to then be fined 5,000 is quite simply ridiculous.

"As far as I am concerned, David has been providing a fantastic service – allowing Jags fans from all over the world to watch their team in action and promoting Highland League football itself."

However, league secretary John Grant defended his actions and said there were important issues with copyright.

He said: "I was made aware that edited footage of games involving Buckie Thistle was being shown on YouTube without the prior approval of the league. Over the last three months, attempts were made to establish who was responsible, but I was advised that the person's name was unknown.

"On meeting Mr Smith at Deveronvale, I asked him if he had permission to video this game, as it was the copyright of the league and no permission had been sought nor given. After brief discussion, he was advised by me that he may have to pay for the royalties for all videos taken and the sum could amount to 5,000."

He said that, before permission was given, regard had to be given to rules, including Uefa Article 48 on audio-visual and radio transmissions and the SFA article 93. He also said sponsorship had to be considered. The matter will be discussed at the league management committee meeting next month.

Margaret Smillie: The league's talking utter nonsense

THIS is not a question of copyright. The SFA does not own copyright on a football game. Copyright only applies to something such as a book, film, play etc that has been created as an act of labour by an individual or group of individuals.

Men running around chasing a ball is not something that has been created. The irony is that David Smith owns the copyright to his own piece of film; he has put the effort into filming and editing it and when he puts it on YouTube, he is tacitly allowing people to watch it and even download it on to their computer. But if those individuals then attempted to sell it for commercial gain then he would be well within his rights to stop them as they would be breaching his copyright.

I have no doubt, however, that the SFA and Scottish Highland League will have the exclusive filming rights within the grounds or at the games, but this is a different matter. If they are saying that a young boy can't film a game and post a few scenes on to the internet then they are taking an exceptionally Draconian view and, if so, they are stating that no-one can take even a photograph within the grounds.

I think the stance that the secretary of the Highland League is taking is nonsense, given that they were not filming the games so there is no commercial loss to them and the club obviously supports him.

They are attempting to use a sledgehammer to crack a very small nut and I would not be surprised if they miss and smash their thumb.

This case may prompt people to take a closer look at what exclusive licences the Highland League and SFA may hold.

Margaret Smillie is a media lawyer and specialist in intellectual property law with Bannatyne, Kirkwood and France.