Media Companies Consider Suing MLB Over Reporting Restrictions

from the careful-with-that-antitrust-exemption dept

We’ve discussed how both Major League Baseball and the National Football League have convinced the press to live with restrictions on how they can report on games online. For rather obvious reasons, this seems troubling. While both are private organizations that can set up the terms by which they hand out press passes, you would think that the media, with its strong belief in a free press, would refuse to go along with any restrictions. The NY Times is now looking into the issue, noting that a big part of the problem is still that the leagues somehow think they “own” sports content. It also points out that part of the problem was in thinking that “video” is only done by television networks who pay tremendous sums for exclusive rights. So the leagues are afraid that reporters with camera phones will put those huge contracts in jeopardy.

However, hidden down towards the end of the article is one interesting tidbit. A bunch of big media companies are actively doing legal research in preparation for bringing these restrictions into court. Specifically, they’re interested in targeting Major League Baseball — which has a special exemption from antitrust law from Congress. The media companies may use these restrictions to suggest that MLB is abusing that right. While it would definitely make for an interesting lawsuit, it’s still difficult to see how the activities are, by themselves, illegal. The team gets to decide who it gives out press passes too — and that’s where the restrictions come from. If the media refused to take press passes and reported on the team in other ways (including buying tickets to the game for reporters) then it could report however it wanted — just with a lot less access. But if all the major media started boycotting the terms of access this way, you can bet that MLB and the NFL would back down quickly.

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Companies: mlb

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Comments on “Media Companies Consider Suing MLB Over Reporting Restrictions”

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N1ck0 says:

Media companies have money

Pssst. Media companies…you have money, an audience, broadcasting, and sports reporters, and many of you own stadiums & teams.

If you don’t like the NFL and MLB rules why bug congress. Just create your own league. I have a feeling you won’t have problems securing television coverage.

If news has been proven as entertainment, movies, and tv are…what is stopping you from getting into sports, its also an entertainment industry.

Now the interesting thing is many of the largest media moguls also have ownership stakes in both the NFL and MLB. One would think it wouldn’t be to hard to change the restrictions.

John says:

though it would take a bit of planning, have all news outlets boycott MLB for 1 day and see MLB fold. Remember, if no one reports on an event, it never really happened.

Explain that the boycott is a shot across the bow of all major sports that they better not pull the crap is trying to pull or they’ll see what happens to their sport when it ceases to exist.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Another Abuse of Copyright/Patent Law

Content “owners” keep attempt to aggrandize their so-called property rights. If the MLB puts on a public performance they loose a degree of alleged “ownership” over that content. Those who watch/report on the event have a right to freely discuss/interpret what they saw. The same concept should also apply in patent law where a company such as Blue Jeans Cable is selling industry standard components, but is being accused of patent infringement.

The purpose of copyright/patent law is to provide the content owner with a limited monopoly to foster innovation. Copyright/patent law seems to be no longer about innovation, but establishing a perpetual “toll booth” to extort money.

Fred (user link) says:

Boycotts and lawsuits are lovely ideas, but the media needs baseball as much as MLB needs the media, and in the case of print media, probably needs MLB more than MLB needs them. MLB has outlets that are not going to care about the press restrictions, such as ESPN and Fox (which pay big bucks for the rights to games), along with its own properties. If the local paper loses access, however, its sports page becomes essentially worthless – who wants to read an account of some guy in the stands?

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

Baseball anti-trust exemption

Just a quick nit to pick:

MLB’s antitrust exemption was not the result of a grant from Congress, but rather is the result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case Federal Baseball Club v. National League in 1922. As such, any attempt to overturn this exemption will have to come via the Federal courts.

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