Is It Illegal To Describe The Sporting Event You're Watching?
from the questions-to-answer dept
A few years back, there was a service launched that would let anyone become their own sports announcer. It let web users broadcast their own audio commentary of a sporting event over the web. I can’t remember when I read about it, and don’t know if it’s still around at all — but the idea was certainly intriguing. There certainly are some people who just can’t stand certain professional sportscasters, and the opportunity to open up sports commentary to just about anyone is an interesting idea. Of course, that doesn’t fit with the way most organized sports view themselves. We’ve discussed in the past how ruthless Major League Baseball has been in claiming it owns nearly all aspects of a game. At the time, one of the questions was whether or not it would be illegal to sit in the stands and “broadcast” an audio description of the game to a friend using a mobile phone. Sports leagues may claim it’s illegal, but it seems unlikely that the courts would agree.
This issue is only going to get a lot more legal attention in the near future. As amateur to amateur content becomes more common, it’s going to hit organized sports in ways they don’t seem to realize. Take a look at the World Cup, for example. Again, this is an organized sporting event that has been quite aggressive in trying to protect all game-related content — going so far as to pre-warn random websites not to rebroadcast games. However, with the means of production and distribution now reaching the hands of just about everyone (for example a cameraphone and YouTube) some are starting to wonder whether organized sports will be able to cope. It certainly raises some questions about the boundaries of what can actually be presented. Where is the line? Can I call someone and describe what I’m seeing? What if it’s a videocall? What if there are two people on the line? Or 200? Or 2 million? It becomes increasingly difficult to figure out what’s okay and what isn’t when it’s no longer just a few big broadcast companies at the table. It also could destroy the idea that one broadcaster gets exclusive rights to an event. If individuals are able to broadcast their own content from a game, how long will it be until other professional sports broadcasters start to ask why they can’t just show up and broadcast on their own, even without securing the “rights”. If the events of a game are considered facts that are part of a news story — what’s to stop just about anyone, professional or amateur, from sending out their own version of the game?