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Live video streaming apps headed into copyright minefield

The new, personal, live-streaming video apps—Periscope by Twitter and Meerkat by Life on Air, Inc.—will likely get dragged by their inventive and fanatical users into a copyright and piracy minefield in Washington and the courts. (See related story: Periscope takes down streams in response to DCMA requests.)

Two marquee media events: the Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao boxing match and the Season 5 premiere of Game of Thrones were both live streamed by Periscope and Meerkat users, much to the chagrin of television executives.

Anticipating pirated streams, HBO and Showtime, which co-produced the pay-per-view event for the fight, filed a lawsuit last Tuesday against a couple of web sites that were advertising live streams of the fight, according to a report in The Hollywood Reporter which posted the complaint.

Millions paid full boat to watch the fight, but cable outages that delayed the fight by 45 minutes pushed thousands to seek out a Periscope feed.

When asked about what Showtime and HBO’s next steps would be,  Showtime declined comment.

The terms of service for Periscope and Meerkat state that users must not violate another’s copyright and that the companies have the right to terminate a user’s account for a breach of copyright.  Both companies were not available for comment over the weekend.

Christina Warren, senior tech correspondent for Mashable, live tweeted her experience while watching the Mayweather-Pacquaio fight on Periscope, and later recapped her experience in a post-mortem article.

“I tuned in in the third round and was able to see dozens and dozens of fight streams in the global “live” menu,” writes Warren. “The stream I ended up watching for half the fight was in Spanish (but still very viewable) and it had more than 10,000 people in it at its peak. That’s right. 10,000 people, all watching some guy’s stream of the fight in Spanish on his high-def TV.”

Ryan McGee, a senior writer for ESPN Magazine, summed up the night succinctly.