Robelinda’s iconic channel is facing extinction – for the good of the game, this travesty must be stopped

If you’re an Australian, and at some point in your life have watched a cricket video on YouTube, chances are it was one of Robelinda’s.

For the uninitiated, Rob Moody and his channel ‘Robelinda2’ – so named due to a copyright strike that killed its first iteration – is as close as our sport has to a time machine.

Having recorded cricket matches, often ball by ball, since childhood in the 1980s, Moody has archived the best bits, clipped them up, and offers them for free on YouTube – his only plea for his endeavours to be funded a somewhat hidden option to buy him a coffee on his ‘About’ page.

So if you fancy seeing 18 minutes of Ricky Ponting pull shots in all their glory…

… or David Warner sub fielding for Australia in a Test match some three years before he became famous…

… or Shane Warne rolling down some gentle meds while wearing a floppy…

… then Robelinda2 is where you’d go.

It’s not an exaggeration to say he’s one of Australian cricket’s most irreplaceable contributors – more than any private citizen, and most certainly more than even Cricket Australia itself, he ensures that thousands upon thousands of hours of the sport played in the days before Kayo and instant replays and social media highlights, are made available for a new generation to enjoy, and preserve their memory.

Which is why when, almost on a yearly basis, a spate of copyright infringement notices crop up to remove old videos, and sometimes even threaten the extinction of his channel, the reaction is always the same: outrage, disgust, and just a hint of devastation that one of Australian sport’s great repositories is again under threat.

This time, the stakes appear higher than ever: according to a post from Moody himself, more than 400 videos in the space of the last week have been removed from his channel, including some old favourites such as Jason Gillespie’s famous 201 not out against Bangladesh and Viv Richards’ iconic 189 in an ODI against England back in 1984 – both videos, it must be said, that are not available to view anywhere else on the internet, for free or otherwise.

The major culprit appears to be ‘LDS Sports’, a broadcasting conglomerate so obscure that if you Google them literally the first page of search results are for the Mormon church.

Recently, however, they have been joined on the warpath by ‘MarhabaCricketIndia’ as a comment on a YouTube video – and not, as is standard legal practice, via a cease and desist letter – commanding Moody (whose channel name, incidentally, they have misspelled multiple times) to remove all videos pertaining to Bangladesh matches especially.

(image via Robelinda2)

In conduct that would be disgraceful in any context, never mind against a man doing nothing wrong and also providing a public service seemingly beyond any of the international cricket boards or their rights holders, they describe Moody as a ‘persistent offender’, warning him that it is his ‘LAST CHANCE’ and to not ‘test our patience any further’.

Bafflingly, their threat is for him to either take down his videos, and if he doesn’t, they will… demand they be taken down – while their finishing claim that ‘the only reason we haven’t completely shut you down is out of respect for the cricket community’ is utterly ludicrous given the previous four paragraphs filled with nothing but hostility.

Broadly speaking, broadcast rights owners have the right to protect their own property. That just rings entirely hollow when, in 99 per cent of cases, they have no interest in making that property publicly available off their own bat – even if I imagine there are many thousands if not millions of people worldwide who would be fine paying a subscription fee to have access to past cricket matches on demand.

In other walks of life, corporations will and have permitted YouTube channels to keep their videos up, compromising by taking control of their monetisation and profiting from them.

One such channel, ‘WILTY? Nope!‘, a lovingly-produced fan-made channel posting the best clips from the popular British panel show, ‘Would I Lie to You?’ has an arrangement like this with the show’s rights holders, allowing their many thousands of videos big and small to remain up and freely available to the public.

If ‘LDS Sports’ or any of the other rights holders were to do this, that would be one thing – and given Moody’s channel has a whopping 1.2 million subscribers and his videos generate millions of views, it would certainly be of financial benefit to do this.

But to simply demand offending videos be removed without any interest whatsoever in making them available themselves is maddeningly short-sighted from the rights holders going after Moody – not just for their own back pockets, but for the game they are paying so much to broadcast.

Cricket counts itself as the world’s second-biggest sport by virtue of its status in India, the world’s most populous nation: yet the game cannot be said to be in rude health, especially away from those shores.

One surefire way of increasing, or at least maintaining, its popularity is to allow archived footage to survive and be widely distributed, allowing a link to the glory days in a way other sports are beginning to catch onto – you can watch, for instance, the entire 1966 FIFA World Cup Final on YouTube, while all 11 hours, 21 minutes and 54 seconds of John Isner’s famous Wimbledon clash with Nicolas Mahut from 2010 can be seen on the grand slam’s own channel.

Perhaps the best example is the NBA – there are thousands of fan-made YouTube and social media accounts on the web distributing highlights for free around the world, encouraged by the league because they know the exposure is both far more than they could achieve on their own and exceedingly healthy for the competition.

It’s not just Moody’s takedown notices that are proof of cricket being left behind in this race for online eyeballs – it’s in the fact that unlike at the 2019 ODI World Cup, the ICC is not making match highlights available on YouTube at the 2023 tournament, despite those videos being some of the most popular in their channel’s history (presumably because the Indian host broadcasters are loath to allow any of their content to exist elsewhere).

ESPNCricinfo assistant editor Sidharth Monga got the point across perfectly in this 2020 article following another spate of Moody takedown notices:

It is natural for rights holders to be possessive about clips from recent matches. A little less explicably, and depending on where you look, between them boards, broadcasters and the ICC hold tight to themselves archival footage of older games. None of these parties wants to part with the footage for free, but nor do they have subscription services for people to access that footage. There is hardly a place online where you can watch an old cricket match. Even for a fee.

There is a reason why Moody is so wildly popular – he has more than 700,000 subscribers on YouTube, which is more than many broadcasters do, and more than a tenth of CA, which is the best board at fan engagement online, does. He actually shows cricket at the viewer’s convenience. That spreads cricket. For arguably short-sighted – if understandable – reasons, cricket doesn’t want to make footage of old cricket available in an unrestricted manner to digitally minded fans, in an age when it can do with the oxygen of publicity.

There is some hope for Moody and his channel: in 2020, Cricket Australia themselves sent him a copyright infringement notice and temporarily had his YouTube account suspended, only for then-CA chairman Earl Eddings to respond to nationwide outrage by rescinding the strike, claiming it was sent ‘in error’.

Steve Smith – the not-so-famous one. (Photo by Getty Images)

Since then, CA have become, according to reports, able to provide Moody assistance against some (but not all) of his copyright strikes: it would behoove the ICC to follow a similar path.

Moody isn’t showing current highlights that would discourage cricket fans from buying a subscription or watching ongoing matches live: for nearly all his videos, his channel is the only place on the internet where it is possible to view them.

The benefits of his labours far, far outweigh the drawbacks (if indeed there are any) – both financially in the case of the current rights holders, and in the case of the game as a whole, in providing it and its history badly needed exposure.

For as long as the ICC permits its rights holders to hold cricket and its past hostage, burying it where nobody can ever witness it again, the game suffers.

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Hopefully the case of Moody will inspire some action to at least stem the bleeding and avoid the total destruction of a wonderful source of entertainment, information and history for good – but I’m not holding my breath.

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