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Copyright Laws: Navigating the Legal Landscape of Football Highlights Videos

Avoid copyright infringement in your football videos. Abide by copyright law

In this digital age, football highlights videos have become an essential form of entertainment, allowing fans to relive the most exhilarating moments of their favorite games. Whether it's a big Premier League match, or a grassroots game that a videographer has filmed themselves, content creators can now easily produce their own videos, showing all the goals and key moments, and upload them to social media.

However, beneath the surface lies a legal landscape governed by copyright law. In the UK, the creation, distribution, and use of football highlight videos are subject to various legal considerations that both creators and consumers must understand to avoid potential infringement issues. In this article, we'll delve into the fundamentals of copyright law in the UK as it relates to football highlight videos, providing guidance on how to navigate this complex terrain.

Understanding Copyright Law in the UK

Copyright law grants creators exclusive rights over their original works, including the right to reproduce, distribute, and publicly display their creations. In the UK, copyright protection arises automatically upon the creation of an original work, whether it's a written text, artwork, music, or audiovisual content like football highlight reels. The duration of copyright protection varies depending on the type of work, but in general, it lasts for the lifetime of the creator plus 70 years.

The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA) serves as the principal legislation governing copyright in the UK. Under the CDPA, copyright infringement occurs when someone without authorisation from the copyright owner engages in activities that exclusively belong to the copyright owner, such as copying, distributing, or publicly displaying the copyrighted work.

Football Highlight Videos: Copyright Considerations

Football highlight reels typically feature footage compiled from various matches, showcasing key moments such as goals, saves, and moments of brilliance. These reels may also include commentary, graphics, and music to enhance the drama and excitement. From a copyright perspective, several elements within football highlights videos may be subject to protection:

  • Game Footage: The footage captured during football matches is typically owned by the event organisers or broadcasting companies that hold the broadcasting rights. Therefore, unauthorised use of game footage may constitute copyright infringement.

  • Commentary: Commentary provided by sports broadcasters or commentators is also protected by copyright. Unauthorised use of commentary in highlight reels may infringe upon the rights of the commentators or broadcasting companies.

  • Music: If soccer highlight reels incorporate background music, whether it's popular songs or original compositions, the rights to use that music must be cleared with the respective copyright owners, which may include music labels or composers.

  • Graphics and Effects: Any original graphics, animations, or effects added to highlight reels are subject to copyright protection. Unauthorised use of such elements may lead to infringement claims by the creators.

Legal Requirements

Given the complexities of copyright law surrounding football highlights videos, both content creators and consumers must take certain precautions to ensure compliance with legal requirements:

  • Obtain Proper Licensing: Content creators intending to use game footage, commentary, music, or other copyrighted materials in their highlight reels should seek appropriate licensing agreements with the respective rights holders. This may involve negotiating with broadcasting companies, music labels, and other relevant entities to obtain the necessary permissions.

  • Fair Use: In some cases, the use of copyrighted materials in football videos may be permissible under the fair use doctrine, which allows for limited use of copyrighted works for purposes such as criticism, commentary, news reporting, teaching, and research. However, the application of fair use is highly fact-specific, and creators should exercise caution to ensure that their use of copyrighted materials falls within the bounds of fair use.

  • Attribution and Credit: When using copyrighted materials in football highlights videos, content creators should provide proper attribution to the original creators or rights holders. This not only demonstrates respect for intellectual property rights but also helps mitigate the risk of infringement claims.

  • Monitor and Respond to Copyright Claims: Content creators should be vigilant in monitoring their soccer highlight reels for any copyright claims or takedown notices. In the event of a claim, creators should assess the validity of the claim and take appropriate action, which may include removing the allegedly infringing content or disputing the claim through the platform's copyright infringement process.

Do's and Don'ts of Copyright Law in Football Videos

These examples illustrate the do's and don'ts for fair use when creating football highlight videos, helping content creators navigate the legal landscape while respecting copyright laws:


  • Provide commentary or criticism: Including commentary that analyses or provides insight into the gameplay, tactics, or performance of players can qualify as fair use. For example, providing voiceover commentary discussing a player's exceptional skill in scoring a goal or the tactical approach of a team during a match.

  • Use the footage for educational purposes: Incorporating soccer match footage into an educational video that teaches viewers about the rules of the game, different playing techniques, or the history of the game can constitute fair use. For instance, creating a video series that breaks down famous football matches to illustrate various tactics used by teams.

  • Transform the footage for a new purpose: Transforming the original footage by editing, remixing, or adding visual effects to create a new and transformative work can qualify as fair use. For example, creating a montage of football highlights set to an original soundtrack or incorporating animations and graphics to enhance the visual appeal of the footage.

  • Use the footage sparingly and selectively: Using only short clips of match footage, particularly those that are essential to convey the intended message or narrative, can help mitigate potential copyright issues. For instance, including brief snippets of key goals, saves, or moments of skill without reproducing the entire match.

  • Attribute the original creators or sources: Providing proper attribution to the sources of the copyrighted footage, such as the broadcasters or event organisers, demonstrates respect for their intellectual property rights. This can involve including credits or acknowledgments in the video description or on-screen during the highlight reel.


  • Use copyrighted footage in its entirety: Reproducing or uploading entire football matches or extended segments of gameplay without authorisation from the copyright owners is unlikely to qualify as fair use. For example, uploading a full-length match without any transformative elements or commentary.

  • Use copyrighted music without permission: Incorporating copyrighted music into soccer highlight reels without obtaining the necessary licenses or permissions from the rights holders is not considered fair use. This includes using popular songs as background music for the video.

  • Use copyrighted graphics without permission: Incorporating copyrighted graphics, logos, or trademarks belonging to soccer clubs, leagues, or sponsors without authorisation is unlikely to qualify as fair use. This includes using team logos or branding elements in the highlight reel without permission.

  • Use the footage for commercial gain: Using soccer match footage primarily for commercial purposes, such as monetizing the highlight reel through advertising or selling the video for profit, is less likely to be considered fair use. This includes using the footage to promote products or services without permission.

  • Use the footage in a manner that could substitute for the original: Creating highlight reels that serve as direct substitutes for watching the original football matches, such as providing uninterrupted gameplay footage without transformative elements or commentary, is less likely to be protected under fair use.

Repercussions of Using Copyrighted Footage

Using copyrighted footage without proper authorisation can have serious legal consequences, including potential civil liabilities and criminal penalties. In the context of football highlights videos and reels, unauthorised use of copyrighted footage may lead to various repercussions, such as:

  • Copyright Infringement Claims: The copyright owners of the footage have the right to enforce their exclusive rights under copyright law. They may issue copyright infringement claims or takedown notices against videos that unlawfully use their copyrighted material. This can result in the removal of the infringing content from online platforms and potential legal action against the infringer.

  • Monetary Damages: In cases of copyright infringement, the copyright owner may seek monetary damages from the infringing party. This can include compensation for lost revenue, profits, or licensing fees that the copyright owner could have obtained if the footage had been properly licensed and used. The amount of damages awarded in copyright infringement cases can vary depending on factors such as the extent of the infringement and the financial harm suffered by the copyright owner.

  • Legal Costs: Defending against copyright infringement claims can be costly, requiring legal representation and potentially leading to lengthy litigation proceedings. Even if the infringing party ultimately prevails in court, they may still incur significant legal expenses in the process. This can pose a financial burden and consume valuable time and resources for both individuals and businesses involved in copyright disputes.

  • Platform Restrictions: Online platforms and social media websites often have policies and procedures in place to address copyright infringement. In cases where copyrighted footage is used without authorisation, these platforms may remove the infringing content or suspend the account of the user who uploaded it. Repeat offenders may face more severe consequences, such as permanent bans from the platform.

Examples of Punishments:

  • YouTube Content ID System: YouTube employs a Content ID system to identify and manage copyrighted content uploaded by users. When copyrighted footage is detected in a video, the copyright owner can choose to monetise the video by placing ads on it, track the video's viewership statistics, or block the video entirely. Failure to comply with YouTube's copyright policies can result in the removal of videos, strikes against the user's account, or termination of the account.

  • Legal Action by Rights Holders: In 2019, a UK-based YouTuber known for uploading football-related content was sued by the English Premier League for copyright infringement. The YouTuber had been using match footage and other copyrighted material without permission in his videos. The case resulted in a court order requiring the YouTuber to pay substantial damages to the Premier League and remove the infringing content from his channel.

  • Platform Bans: Social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram have mechanisms in place to address copyright infringement. Users who repeatedly violate copyright policies by sharing copyrighted footage without authorisation may have their accounts suspended or permanently banned from the platform. In some cases, platforms may also disclose user information to copyright holders for legal action.

Copyright Considerations for Grassroots Football Match Highlight Videos

In the world of grassroots football, where matches are often played at local parks or community fields, the landscape of copyright law presents unique challenges and considerations for individuals who film and produce their own match highlight videos. Unlike professional leagues with established broadcasting rights, grassroots football matches typically lack formal agreements governing the use of match footage. However, copyright issues may still arise, and it's essential for videographers and content creators to understand their rights and responsibilities in this context.

Ownership of Match Footage

In grassroots football, individuals who film matches generally own the copyright to the footage they capture. This means that the person who operates the camera and records the match holds the exclusive rights to reproduce, distribute, and publicly display the footage. As the copyright owner, they have the authority to determine how the footage is used and whether others can make copies or derivative works based on it.

However, it's crucial to consider the rights of participants in the match, such as players, coaches, and referees. While they do not typically hold copyright in the footage itself, they may have rights regarding their likeness or actions captured in the video. Therefore, it's advisable to obtain consent from both teams involved in the game beforehand, especially if their images or actions are used in a commercial context.

Impact of Music on Copyright

In non league and grassroots football settings, music is often played over public address (PA) systems before, during or after matches to entertain spectators and create a lively atmosphere. While the primary focus of match highlights videos is the game footage itself, the incidental inclusion of copyrighted music in the background can trigger copyright concerns. Copyright law grants exclusive rights to the creators or owners of music, including the right to reproduce, distribute, and publicly perform the work. As such, using copyrighted music in highlight videos without permission may constitute copyright infringement, even if the music is captured incidentally during the filming of the match.

Final Word...

In the UK, copyright law plays a crucial role in regulating the creation, distribution, and use of football footage. By understanding the legal considerations outlined in this article and taking proactive steps to ensure compliance, content creators and consumers can navigate the legal landscape with confidence, enjoying the content while respecting the rights of copyright owners.

How to Avoid Copyright Infringement

If you want to avoid having your videos taken down by YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok, your best option is to create your own videos, using your own footage. You will become the copyright holder!

You can learn how to get started and film your own professional DSLR footage in just SIX HOURS by CLICKING HERE

*Please note, Up North Productions is an affiliate for FroKnowsPhoto and will receive a small commission from any sales made by clicking the link.

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