THE BLOG

Periscope and Intellectual Property: A Word of Warning

10/07/2015 08:34 BST | Updated 08/07/2016 10:59 BST

You'd be forgiven for thinking that Periscope has been around forever, such is the amount of hype and fervour surrounding the smartphone app. It might surprise you, then, to learn that the app has only been on general release for a few months, and while it is certainly still considered as the new kid on the block, there is no doubt it has made some serious waves on 'planet tech'.

For the uninitiated, Periscope is an app that allows anyone to broadcast what's going on around them live from a mobile device. Just as Twitter allowed the public a platform to publish their thoughts to anyone around the globe, Periscope enables anybody to broadcast a more in-depth look into their life, with the biggest players watched by an audience of thousands or even millions.

However, just like Twitter, or any public domain that allows people to freely publish content, there are a number of legal issues to consider. The most important aspect to remember is that posting ill-advised comments or content on any social network can carry the same legal ramifications as if you'd published it via a prominent news channel.

Just as broadcasters like Sky and the BBC have certain legal standards to uphold, so too do Periscope broadcasters. This mostly comes down to common sense, namely that users should not broadcast any illegal or immoral activity they're taking part in.

Equally, those using Periscope will need to ensure that they are legally entitled to use the content they broadcast. Popular television shows like HBO's Game of Thrones, and sports franchises such as the Barclays Premier League are significant money spinners for rights holders, however, piracy remains a huge issue for both, and Periscope seems set to exacerbate the problem. It's as simple as loading up the app while the latest episode of a popular drama, or a big sporting event, is on TV; you won't have to look far to find it being streamed live.

Some broadcasters are swiftly taking action on this. In North America, the National Hockey League quickly moved to ban Periscope from every game to prevent those in the crowd from unlawfully broadcasting live footage of matches.

Here, on average, the likes of Sky and BT Sports pay £10.2m per Premier League game they broadcast - that's more than £100,000 per minute. With such a hefty price tag on air time, it is surely only a matter of time before other rights holders take action against those who use Periscope to broadcast copyright protected material.

With the ease Periscope gives to illegal streaming, it's no surprise that the app is getting some of the world's biggest broadcasters a bit hot under the collar. If you're a user of Periscope it's important to remember that, legally speaking, you're a broadcaster in your own right. As the service is still in its infancy, I'm not yet aware of any court cases involving Periscope, but the legal implications are clear: using Periscope to broadcast copyright protected material without the owner's consent will, in most circumstances, amount to copyright infringement.

Wayne Beynon is an IP lawyer at Cardiff and London based law firm Capital Law: www.capitallaw.co.uk