Is Publishing A Magazine & Website About Ohio State's Sports Teams Infringing?
from the free-speech-anyone? dept
Paul Alan Levy, who had also written that earlier story, points us to the news that Ohio State has successfully obtained a temporary restraining order against a company that was seeking to publish a magazine and a website devoted to Ohio States' sports. That seems like a clear freedom of the press situation, and in a sane world, a situation that would make Ohio State happy. After all, more press coverage has to be good, right? But not when the university wants to be able to license the rights to anything having to do with the school's sports teams:
Instead of welcoming this additional coverage as a form of homage, and considering how a second set of web sites and magazines could intensify public interest and thus help promote the University, Ohio State went to court complaining of the defendants' attempt to "rip off" Ohio State's sports enterprise. The university protested that it had just started to license out the right to publish sports programs, instead of doing such publications inhouse, and if outsiders could publish programs without permission, the value of this licensing would be reduced.This argument makes no sense. None. You could similarly argue that about any form of news coverage. I could say that I've licensed out the ability to write about Techdirt posts, and anyone writing about Techdirt without permission will have reduced the value of my license process. But, everyone would recognize that's a ridiculous claim.
Unfortunately, given little time, the publisher apparently wasn't able to muster compelling arguments against the temporary restraining order, which the judge granted, claiming that such a magazine would infringe on Ohio State's trademarks. As Levy notes, this is tremendously problematic from a free expression standpoint:
The price of creating a major sports franchise that is the main interest of the populace of a large state is that the teams become a legitimate topic of public conversation. Indeed, a well-counseled franchise ought to revel in being a subject of such discussion and indeed adulation. Third parties ought to be able to participate in that discussion even when their motivation is to make money from their participation. Trademark law should not be available to impede such discussion.