As you may have heard, the NBA and the NBA Players Association did not
hit their deadline last night to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, and thus began a lockout/work stoppage. Of course, we're not a sports blog, so what's interesting about that for us? Well.... apparently over the last few days, the webmasters for all of the NBA team websites have been scrambling like mad, because they believe that when the players are locked out, there can be no mention or image of any player on any NBA webpage
That's because the moment the clock strikes midnight on the current CBA, all those images and videos of NBA players have to disappear off NBA-owned digital properties. Depending on how you interpret "fair use," the prohibition could include the mere mention of a player's name on an NBA-owned site, though different teams have different interpretations of this particular stipulation.
That's from ESPN... who doesn't give any more detail as to what it is they actually think would be infringing here. It's certainly not copyright
, even though that's implied. There's no copyright in names. And the copyright on the images would be held by whoever took the images, not the players. I'm assuming this is more of a publicity rights issue, which we've been discussing a lot
lately. But those are generally based on a patchwork of state laws. And, even so, I can't quite see how that would prevent teams from accurately
listing players who were on the team. That's factual information. But not according to the teams:
There are additional gray areas that are still up for discussion: What about a photo of a Lakers fan wearing a No. 24 Kobe Bryant jersey? What about a retrospective feature on the John Stockton-Karl Malone Jazz teams? Do tweets from the team's official Twitter feed that mention a player and/or link to an image need to be deleted? How about Facebook posts?
Nobody seems to know for certain the definitive answers to these questions and the criteria seem to be arbitrary. According to more than one team website staffer, the cutoff for images of retired players right now stands at 1992-93 -- Shaquille O'Neal's first season in the league. And social media is an area they're still grappling with as the deadline approaches.
However strict the boundaries, overhauling the architecture of these sites is a painstaking process that has a lot of talented web people around the league very stressed out. The NBA has built and furnished each team with a website "wire frame" that will take the place of the existing, much more sophisticated site. The wire frame is a rudimentary version of the site, without a lot of the snazzy technology we've grown accustomed to seeing. As a result, each of the 30 team sites will look virtually identical.
It looks like those "new" sites are in place. I've looked around at a few
, and while they may have old players (from decades ago), most traces of modern players have disappeared. They do
list the names of players on the team under the "team" tab, but otherwise, the players seem almost entirely absent. And for what reason? Intellectual property shouldn't be part of a labor fight. It's got nothing to do with that. The whole thing just seems silly.