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YouTube rules tennis highlights 'out'

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When Tennis Australia lodged similar complaints during its flagship event, which ended on January 28, as a repeat offender Erich's account was suspended.

Neither Tennis Australia nor the USTA responded to email requesting comment.

Erich notes, by email, "It definitely seems that things have changed after Google joined the fun. It's also possible that the new corporate overlords are just being more cooperative with copyright holder complaints. YouTube had in the past been criticised for not doing enough to weed out copyright violators. Realistically speaking, with or without Google, the copyright anarchy was never going to go unnoticed for too long."

A spokesman for YouTube, however, denies that there has been any change of policy.

"Our policy regarding copyright has not changed. We don't control the content on our site. Our users post the content on YouTube – including videos, comments, and ratings. Our community guidelines and clear messaging on the site make it clear that users must own or have permission from copyright holders to post any videos.

"We take copyright issues very seriously. We prohibit users from uploading infringing material and we cooperate with copyright holders to identify and promptly remove infringing content."

This is certainly the response you'd expect from a company that does not want to be drowned in lawsuits.

Serve and volley

But does it make wider sense as a policy for the sport to pursue? Interest in tennis has been shrinking in the US (although it's expanding in Asia and holding its own in Europe) since the 1970s and 1980s, when charismatic American superstars like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Billie Jean King, and Chris Evert drew in millions of people. Andre Agassi, who did the same job in the 1990s, retired last year. Australia currently has few top players despite a glorious history.

Even where tennis is expanding it is a minority sport, overshadowed in the US by American football, baseball, basketball, and ice hockey, and in the rest of the world by the near-universal devotion to football.

The sport's management has been slow to understand and grasp the internet. The Grand Slam websites, created by IBM, do show video highlights – but these are adamantly Microsoft Internet Explorer-only. With rare exceptions – notably the Moscow event, which has offered live streaming video for some years now – few other tournaments offer even that. It's only in the last year that the pro tours have begun offering video clips on their own sites.

Yet this is a worldwide sport that should be cultivating its next-generation audience any way it can. Hundreds of matches are played every week involving not just the stars whose names everyone knows but players who are rarely televised but are heroes in their own countries and whose greater accessibility to the public would help grow the game.

They shouldn't be pulling videos off YouTube; they should be giving Erich a job. ®

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