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Twitter Suspends Deadspin, SBNation Accounts for Violating Copyrights

The Twitter sports clip crackdown begins.

Thearon W. Henderson / Getty

Twitter is cracking down on digital media properties that publish highlights of football games on Twitter without permission.

Today, Twitter temporarily suspended the main account run by Gawker Media’s Deadspin sports site, which had been sharing GIF and video highlights of NFL games. Over the weekend, Twitter also suspended an account, @SBNationGIF, run by Vox Media-owned SB Nation* for posting GIFs of college football highlights. It has yet to be reactivated.

According to Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notices provided to Re/code by Twitter, Deadspin received more than a dozen takedown notices from the NFL. SB Nation received eight takedown notices from XOS Digital, which owns various college football digital broadcasting rights and represents the SEC and Big 12 conferences.

Gawker Media Executive Editor John Cook confirmed the takedown requests to Re/code. A Vox Media spokesperson declined to comment. [Update: Vox confirms XOS issued takedown notices but is working with Twitter to restore the account. Full statement below.]

“We got 18 takedown notices about 16 tweets. All of the tweets included GIFs, and all of the requests were filed by the NFL,” Cook wrote in an email. “The account was reinstated after we appealed the deactivation. The tweets in question are still up, but Twitter has of its own accord stripped them of the allegedly offending GIFs. All in all, the account was, in Twitter’s words, ‘permanently suspended’ from 5:30 pm to 7:45 pm [EST].”

Twitter declined to comment on specific accounts. An NFL spokesperson confirmed that the league lodged the complaints because Deadspin was infringing on NFL copyrights, but was puzzled over Twitter’s decision to take down the accounts.

“The NFL sent routine notices as part of its copyright enforcement program requesting that Twitter disable links to more than a dozen pirated NFL game videos and highlights that violate the NFL’s copyrights,” the league said in a statement. “We did not request that any Twitter account be suspended.”

Sharing video highlights is a widespread practice on the Internet. But it remains controversial, particularly when it comes to high-value content like sports highlights.

Professional sports rights are incredibly expensive, with major TV outlets paying millions of dollars for the right to air games as well as highlights. Sports is still one of the few things audiences consistently watch live, maintaining its ad value even as TV ratings overall have started to decline.

This isn’t the first time that Twitter has shut down accounts related to copyright issues. Last summer, for instance, FIFA successfully pushed Twitter to suspend @ReplayLastGoal, a bot account set up to automatically generate GIFs and video clips from the World Cup. ESPN and Univision, which held exclusive broadcasting deals for the World Cup, were behind FIFA’s muscling to get World Cup content taken down from Twitter.

It’s not hard to find GIFs from yesterday’s NFL games on accounts run by SB Nation and Sports Illustrated that are still up and running today. Twitter and the NFL also work together to bring sanctioned clips to the service, as part of a two-year deal they signed in August.

Deadspin had some fun with its Twitter suspension. They briefly teamed up with ex-ESPNer Keith Olbermann, who was tweeting to his roughly 550,000 Twitter followers on Deadspin’s behalf.

And when Deadspin’s Twitter account went back online at around 5 p.m. PST, they immediately took aim at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

*SB Nation is owned by Vox Media, which also owns Re/code.

Vox Media statement: SB Nation received an email from Twitter notifying us that the @SBNationGIF account had been suspended, due to a DMCA notice Twitter received related to several gifs and vines sent from the @SBNationGIF account, which contained content from college football game broadcasts. The DMCA notice came from XOS Digital, a third party rights organization. We are working with Twitter to resolve the issue and restore the account. All other SB Nation accounts are in good standing. We take copyright infringement issues seriously and always try to keep our use of unlicensed third party footage within the bounds of fair use.


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