By: Wayne Robins
No Slam Dunk For Either Side
Are professional sporting contests news events or privately owned performances?
Last week, the National Basketball Association and The New York Times agreed to an out-of-court settlement over the paper’s sale of commemorative photographs of the NBA’s 1999 playoffs. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball (MLB) and news organizations led by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) were working to hammer out a compromise to end a dispute that began with this year’s season over how often reporters and photographers can transmit information from a game – which MLB wants to limit.
The NBA sued the Times last summer. The pictures, taken by staff photographers, were sold at the Times’ online store in lavishly packaged sets of five for $900. The NBA cried foul, suing the Times for breach of contract: The small print on the back of press passes prohibits use of photos from the games except for reporting as “news.” The Times objected to being asked to jump through that hoop, claiming the news, photos, and information it gathers belong to the newspaper.
Last week’s settlement avoided sticky First Amendment and intellectual-property issues. The Times agreed to display the NBA logo on its Web page and in any ads for photos – and also agreed to link to the NBA’s Web site. “It was an agreement where both could walk away and proclaim victory,” said Steve Borgman, a partner at the law firm of Vinson and Elkins in Houston.
At press time, APSE President Tim Burke, sports editor of The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, Fla., was hoping for a similarly peaceful resolution with, to steal a phrase, the Lords of Baseball.
Wayne Robins (firstname.lastname@example.org) is an associate editor covering new media for E&P.
BASEBALL LEAGUE SEEKS ONLINE PHOTO RESTRICTIONS (04/02/01)
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