If A Sporting Event Is Newsworthy, Why Can't News Organizations Broadcast It?
from the ownership-society dept
In the past, sports leagues have tried to claim that transmitting information about their events violated their copyrights, but every time they’ve tried to enforce that, they’ve lost (often badly) in court. Despite the exaggerated claims you often hear towards the ends of sporting broadcasts about how “Any use of this broadcast or of any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the league’s consent, is prohibited,” just because they say it, doesn’t make it so — especially when it comes to “descriptions” of the game.
Of course, this has always made me wonder about the “exclusive contracts” that various sports teams and leagues sign with certain broadcast companies for TV, radio and internet streams. Because, in this day and age, the lines between things start to get blurry really fast. If I’m at a game and using my mobile phone to tell a friend what’s happening, am I broadcasting? What if I’m using three way calling so it’s more than just one person listening? What if it’s 10 people? Now, what if I’m filming the game with my cell phone? These days, there are tons of new services like Qik that allow you to broadcast video directly from your mobile phone. You know there’s a lawsuit waiting to happen…
And while it isn’t quite as extreme yet, there is a lawsuit happening now that may play into this. Romenesko points us to the news that the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has sued newspaper giant Gannett for daring to cover its sporting events by including online video of the event. It claims that showing the event infringes “on its exclusive media ownership rights.” Specifically, the group is claiming that high school sporting events are not news, and therefore it has the right to “control the transmission, Internet stream, photo, image, film, videotape, audiotape, writing, drawing or other depiction or description” of games.
Already, we know that it’s simply not true that they have the right to control “description” of the game, but do they really have the right to any video tape of the event as well? It seems like quite a stretch to claim that a sporting event is not news. Now, if the event is on private property, they could simply ban the ability to film/record the event and throw violators off the property, but that’s separate from the “media ownership rights.”
The article above, written by the local Gannett-owned newspaper who filed the suit, is a bit misleading, in that most of the article claims it was sued simply for reporting on the game, which is absolutely ridiculous. The reporter doesn’t even mention the video streaming until the 10th paragraph. Still, once you realize that a video you film yourself really is just another “depiction” of a news event… you do have to wonder if the sports organizations really can claim ownership over it. Perhaps this lawsuit will let us find out.