Rugby: NZRU has eye on internet use of images

By Dylan Cleaver

The NZRU is closely monitoring the increasing use of All Blacks footage on internet sites such as YouTube as it tries to protect its image rights.

The Premier League, at the beginning of this month, launched a class action against YouTube, recently bought by the US-based internet giant Google, and Australia's National Rugby League (NRL) and Australian Football League (AFL) are considering joining the suit.

Yesterday, the New Zealand Rugby Union's deputy chief executive Steve Tew told the Herald on Sunday in a statement that New Zealand and its partners in the Tri nations, Australia and South Africa, had been monitoring the situation for a year.

"Internet piracy [of broadcast material] has been discussed within Sanzar in the last 12 months," Tew said.

"It is not yet seen as a major issue for rugby, but the concerns of AFL, NRL and England's Premier League suggest that it is a fast-growing problem.

"We will watch the Premier League action - and related actions - with interest as they develop."

A recent report in Australia quoted NRL spokesman John Brady as saying the NRL was considering joining the Premier League in a class action as "we would like to see our rights protected."

The AFL also had not made a decision as to whether they would join the lawsuit.

The Premier League felt compelled to take the action against Google after frequent warnings to remove copyrighted footage of Premiership football were either ignored or the website could not cope with hundreds of new uploads each week.

In the same report, a Google spokesman said the company "respected copyright" and were confident in their legal position.

YouTube has millions of videos on their site across a multitude of subjects.

Simply typing 'All Blacks' into the site search engine reveals a plethora of videos, with hours of footage lifted from host Sanzar broadcasters like Sky Television and Fox.

The use of video footage on internet sites is becoming an increasingly murky and complex issue. News websites in New Zealand such as www.nzherald.co.nz are currently in a battle with Rugby World Cup 2007 over the use of video footage from the World Cup later in the year.

Tew did not give any indication as to whether Sanzar or the NZRU would pursue such a lawsuit should the Premier League's action prove to be successful.

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