from the expressed-written-permission dept
A couple years ago, law professor Wendy Seltzer used the NFL as an example of sports leagues performing copyfraud, by claiming copyright control beyond what is allowed by law. Specifically, she was talking about the warning mentioned at some point during every game. For the NFL it was: “This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or of any pictures, descriptions, or accounts of the game without the NFL’s consent, is prohibited.” In Seltzer’s case, amazingly, the NFL sent a DMCA takedown of her posting that clip to YouTube — giving her another “teachable moment” on copyright abuse.
And yet, sports leagues still continue the copyfraud. One of the fine folks over at Consumerist, Phil Villarreal, found the wording of Major League Baseball’s warning quite questionable:
“Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this game, without the express written consent of Major League Baseball, is prohibited,”
Unlike the NFL one, at least it didn’t say “descriptions,” but “account” is pretty close. So, Villarreal contacted MLB to request “express written consent” to provide an “account” of the game he had watched to a friend. To its credit, MLB responded and asked him to call someone in its business development department… who (perhaps reasonably) thought it was a joke and did not provide the written consent (and stopped responding to calls and emails).
Now, obviously, this is a bit of a joke (and a funny one), but it does highlight a rather serious problem. Copyright holders are pretty regularly claiming significantly more rights than they actually hold over content, and many people simply assume that they can do this. This leads to them to think that they don’t have basic rights concerning not just “fair use” but stuff that is obviously not covered by copyright, such as an “account of this game.” There really should be sanctions against such copyfraud.