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  • Writer's pictureCassandra L. Wilkinson

Periscope: The New Kid on the Block

What is Periscope? Periscope is a live streaming video mobile app acquired by Twitter in January 2015 for a reported $100 million. It has been the talk of the town since its official launch on March 26, 2015. As noted in the Periscope Blog: “For viewers, Periscope gives you a new set of eyes and ears. Travel the world and step into someone else’s shoes. See what they see, hear what they hear, and hopefully feel what they feel. Watching a broadcast isn’t a passive experience like television. On Periscope, viewers influence the broadcaster by sending messages and expressing their love by tapping the screen to send hearts.” While Periscope is hotter than the Oklahoma heat in July, it can be intimidating to folks who are new to the platform. Simply put, Periscope enables one to “go live” via your mobile device anytime and anywhere. This app allows us to search out movie stars, athletes, musicians, live concerts, boxing matches, and even some network series. Periscope is an app that truly takes advantage of having a mobile platform that incorporates notifications as well as social sharing (on Twitter), live discussions and feedback. A Periscope broadcast in full swing is an interactive event.
With this hot new app being the newest kid on the block, its high profile use has not been without controversy, particularly when it comes to copyright law. Periscope has been accused of promoting copyright infringement and pirating with regard to the recent Floyd Mayweather- Manny Pacquiao boxing match. The pay-per-view fight, which cost $100 per view, went out over Periscope. Another major network, HBO says “Periscope could be a tool for ‘mass copyright infringement’.” Prior to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, HBO had taken the steps to prevent piracy from eating into their pay-per-view revenues; however, HBO was not able to take similar preventive action against piracy by individual users of Periscope. The fight was not HBO’s first time in the ring with Periscope on piracy issues. In mid-April 2015, HBO sent takedown notices to Periscope after Periscope users livestreamed episodes of the HBO monster hit show Game of Thrones. Periscope did take action against the infringing account holders.
Is Periscope guilty of copyright infringement? Although Periscope is only five months old it has already drawn a lot of attention with HBO and other cable companies for piracy. Every week the Periscope app receives hundreds of takedown notices, mostly from sports organizations including, NFL, NBA, WWE and the Premiere League. These organizations don’t want the public to rebroadcast their events for free. On the other hand, musicians appear to be less concerned by Periscope – musicians other than Taylor Swift that is. Taylor Swift has, in the recent weeks, contacted Twitter with dozens of notices asking that Periscope stop and remove live streams of Swift’s concerts. The reason is because the videos that are often shared by some of Taylor Swift’s passionate fans are seen as copyright infringement. It seems that Miss Swift has surrounded herself with a dedicated enforcement team who swiftly take action by having her live streams taken offline. The name of her dedicated enforcement team is TAS Rights Management.
Copyright infringement has also increasingly been a problem for websites like Facebook, which depends on third parties to report copyright infringement, as does Periscope. But the app has an additional problem to deal with — content can be pirated live which makes it more difficult to police the infringement. For the younger generation that has countless ways to watch video programming, streaming apps like Periscope are a way, albeit a legally questionable way, to access traditional cable television without the burden of a subscription.
I have personally streamed and watched my own son do a live performance (he is a musician who currently lives in Los Angeles, California). While it was wonderful to have the opportunity to watch him do what he does best, I was disappointed to see that this video stream through Periscope had very terrible video and sound quality. Though my son has done several live shows since this particular performance that I saw, I have not streamed via Periscope since. I have also learned that after 24 hours, the Periscope automatically deletes the videos that were live streamed the day before.
Periscope may not be the most enjoyable way to watch, say, an entire season of Game of Thrones, but it's easy, free, and doesn't make you wait for a torrent to download. Periscope keeps growing, and with a compliance rate of 71%, it is very likely that its copyright problem will continue to grow as well.
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