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They Again Are Protecting Their Copyrights And Trademarks

Thank You

First, I want to thank Dick Holl for allowing me to post his missive that he sent out yesterday. It's been one of my missions to make sure that you, the online readers, are aware of these types of issues. It's especially important for those who produce sites as a fan of a team.

In case you haven't seen what AllSports is doing, you can go to http://www.allsports.com/. (I have a fan page through them; it can be found through http://www.allsports.com/nba.htm.)

Who Are They?

This isn't the first time the NBA has done this. They targeted an Indiana Pacers and a San Antonio Spurs site a couple of years ago, just prior to the launch of NBA.com. There used to be artciles online about those incidents, but the links are no longer available.

But in this case, as cease and change letter was sent to the owner of http://www.miamiheat.net/. (The letter, for the time being, is posted on the site.) He has removed all of the pictures and other copyrighted material from his site in the meantime. Whether he gets to hold onto his domain name is another story.

One thing I will say - that's a very strongly worded letter. Unfortunately for the guy who owns the site, I don't think that removing the graphics is going to change the situation. What I think NBA Properties is concerned about is the domain name. And I'm not sure what he's going to be able to do to stop them, if he should. After all, NBA Properties has a legitimate trademark on the Miami Heat name.

I wish it were otherwise, but in this case I think this fan is going to lose this one. Unfortunately for him, he stepped too far over the line and so now gets the whole book thrown at him. If he had avoided the team name for a domain name, NBA Properties might've looked the other way.

As Dick Holl said in a follow-up e-mail to his original missive: "...if you want to be a tiger tamer, don't load your pockets full of raw meat."

Some Helpful Hints (Again)

So, now I get to write yet another column about the online experience and trying not to get into legal trouble. Luckily, I keep finding new information to help further clarify the issue. I even wrote about this last year, too, with its own set of helpful hints.

It is important that web publishers understand what their rights AND responsibilities are. Just because it's easy to do does not mean it's legal or ethical. So look at last year's list, as well as these resources:

One rule I try to use is: if I had created the work, should I expect that no one else will use it? This isn't the end-all and be-all definition, but it's a good way to check whether I feel on strong ethical grounds in using something that I didn't necessarily create.

I'm struggling with one issue right now, about a sound bite that I have. It's a public service announcement recorded by CWebb and sent to season ticket holders in 1996. I really want to post it and think that it is morally correct to do so, but I don't own the copyright and am not sure of who to talk to. (Or whether I even want to talk to anyone.) See, it seems like something innocent, but the implications are bigger than that.

So, try your best, first and foremost. Keep a low profile and don't do anything to eggregious. I think the NBA realizes that fan sites are good, in general. Just don't tweak the tail of the tiger, because you may not like the paw that it's intending to swipe you with (continuing the tiger tamer theme).

wtf 30 July 1997

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