The biggest news of the college baseball postseason happened in the press box, not on the field.
The College World Series will be over by Monday, at the latest, but the enduring news occurred at a super regional in Louisville when the NCAA revoked a newspaper reporter’s credential and booted him from the press box.
His high crime: Live blogging.
If the NCAA and the Louisville Courier-Journal want to fight and draw lines in the sand about intellectual property, broadcast rights and free speech, this will end up being a very interesting legal case. It could affect how and when and from whom you receive sports news.
Closer to home, the University of Arizona athletic department is watching with interest, having discussed this issue at the “committee level in the past two weeks,” said sports information director Tom Duddleston.
Previously, UA has been mostly silent about live blogging. The Citizen has done it from home football games the past two seasons, some men’s basketball games and Women’s College World Series games, including one just a few days before the NCAA halted the reporter from Louisville.
There were no warnings or restrictions in the NCAA softball press box, which is a contrast to what happened at the baseball super regionals.
There, reporters received a memo that said live blogging was considered a “live representation of the game” and that any “blog that has action photos or game reports, including play-by-play, scores or any in-game updates, is specifically prohibited. In essence, no blog entries are permitted between the first pitch and the final out of each game.”
Duddleston said a note has been posted in the UA football press box telling the media they can’t do live accounts of the game (whoops, never saw it), but that was mostly referring to streaming video and written play-by-play accounts.
“If someone writes, ‘The Cats just went 80 yards and Willie (Tuitama) looked sharp,’ that wouldn’t be a problem, in that it goes up periodically,” Duddleston said. “It’s no different than sitting in the press box calling in score summaries for SportsTicker.”
If you’re wondering why the NCAA really cares that a media outlet is providing live updates from a college baseball game – the sport can use any boost in its visibility – you’re probably not alone.
It’s about money.
The NCAA wants to interpret in-game blogging as a live representation, and, therefore, in violation of the association’s broadcast agreements with whatever company or companies paid for the rights.
“If money is to be made, we want to make it,” said Duddleston, speaking from an athletic department’s point of view.
The NCAA and the rights-holders want you watching their online scoreboard or GameTracker or blog – and prohibit someone else’s running account of the game. They can then sell and charge more for ads and exclusivity.
It’s about controlling the distribution of the product.
But a home run isn’t an intellectual property that can be copyrighted.
Reporting who hit it and when is simply a restatement of fact, with a side dish of free-speech opinion added in typical blog fashion.
But is the game a “right” that can be protected by the owner?
Plenty of legal fat to chew on here.
Leaving those arguments aside for a second, this just sounds petty and futile. I know, shocking for the NCAA.
Now, the NCAA wants to cast a net over the entire, well, Net.
Wise move or not, the NCAA likely is within its rights to attach a “no-blog” policy to its press credentials, but what about fans with a wireless connection at the stadium, or what about the media member just watching on TV from home?
Have fun with enforcement.
UA isn’t at the point yet where it is going to restrict game blogs. Let’s say Arizona is in wait-and-see mode.
“I’m a little leery about the rights-holder – ABC, for example – saying, ‘We don’t want any of that stuff during our broadcast,’ ” Duddleston said.
He offered a compromise.
“The easiest thing is to turn off the broadband in the press box and have you guys blog with dial-up,” Duddleston said.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org