by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 24th 2007 12:36pm
By now, it certainly shouldn't come as any surprise that Major League Baseball mis-interprets various intellectual property laws to pretend is has total control over certain content. After all, this is the organization that has insisted repeatedly that it owns facts, despite court after court explaining that facts aren't copyrightable. MLB also seems confused about copyright law when it comes to the legality of placeshifting. In the past, MLB also freaked out about fan websites potentially violating trademarks -- but that was a long time ago. Or so we thought. Apparently the fun lawyers at MLB shut down an immensely popular MySpace page for Chicago Cubs fans that was linked to a fan website called Cubbies Baseball. That fan website actually has a license to use the official Chicago Cubs logo, but MLB claims that the license didn't extend to MySpace as well -- just the Cubbies Baseball site. King Kaufman, the sports writer at Salon, blames MLB for not asking the owner of the site to remove the logo -- but puts more blame on MySpace for simply shutting down the site the second MLB complained, without giving any warning. He seems to think MLB isn't totally in the wrong in demanding the logo be removed, but again that's not necessarily true. If the site was clear that it was a fan site and had no official endorsement or association with the Cubs, it should be fair use to use the logo. MLB trots out the tired explanation that it has to defend its trademarks or risk losing them, but that's not so in a case where there's an obvious fair use exception. Either way, from a common sense standpoint, it's ridiculous for MySpace and MLB to shut down a vibrant fan community -- and it's made worse when you realize that the use of the logo probably isn't even a real violation of trademark law.
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