Do not talk about this post without the express written consent of Major League Baseball

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Do not talk about this post without the express written consent of Major League Baseball

Thu Sep 03, 2009 @ 04:53PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Major League Baseball enthusiasts can recite the televised disclaimer by heart: "Any rebroadcast, retransmission, or account of this game, without the express written consent of Major League Baseball,
is prohibited."

In past years, as professional sports organizations have developed strong online media platforms, they have imposed limits on the kind of content news outlets can transmit from inside the stadium. For example, last year, both MLB and the NFL came under heat after they limited audio and video content.

But how about merely talking about a game? If MLB owns the "account" of the game, can it stop people from describing what has already happened?

Phil Villareal at the Consumerist blog wanted to find out and sent an e-mail to MLB with a request for express written consent to describe the game to someone in his own living room. He spoke to an official from the business development department at MLB Advanced Media, and (understandably) was shrugged off. We'd guess that Villareal's description of a game would probably constitute transformative fair use of MLB's copyright. 

We're not sure when or why MLB decided to claim authority over accounts of games, but it may have had something to do with the development of companies in the 1980s offering subscribers the opportunity to call a phone number and get real-time game developments. Back then, a real-time account could pass off as something like a radio broadcast and threaten radio licensing revenue. In 1997, the NBA lost a case against Motorola over a pager service. That case chipped away at sports leagues' copyright authority.

MLB's claims of authority over the "account" of a game could be obsolete, but with the development of instant-media technologies, it probably wants to stake its ground just in case.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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