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Riding the Wizards Bench September

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Is A War Coming? Protecting Your Fan Page

Striking A Nerve

Well, Dick Holl, of Sportsland, hit on some more issues that I think I should make some of you aware of, especially those of you who maintain fan pages for your favorite sports team. He's part of an effort to develop yet another strictly online media source for sports information, but he's using fans to build it up.

Anyway, this e-mail (quoted in full in a supporting page) goes on for some length about the trials and tribulations that his group is facing. And many of the issues he raise are germane to what should concern you, either as a provider and/or a consumer.

Backlash From The Leagues

His first warning is real. He's dealing with the various pro leagues on various levels, trying to get the site off the ground. The fact that he had to resort to this language suggests that something may be coming to a head here shortly. Maybe not in the next few months, but as the Net gets more corporatized, beware.

Make no mistake we are in a race here. All the leagues are going to start cracking down on "Unofficial team pages." As I have often said there is no such thing. A page is either an official site or a media site. If it is neither it is an illegal site and all of you are either running or have run illegal sites. Now I know you don't think that, but this isn't your call. Sports is first and foremost a business. It is a business that involves large sums of money and ironclad contracts with ironclad guarantees. They are going to fight to protect their copyrighted material and the agreements they have in place with all the major marketing firms.
He admits that the leagues have a difficult challenge trying to regulate this content, but that won't stop them from trying if they feel that the value of what they provide is being diminished. This is the first serious warning I've seen in the past 20 or so months; things have been quiet since the NBA launched NBA.com. Before that launching, however, a few popular sites were shut down at the league's order. Again, beware.

Protection Of Copyrights

How many times does this need to be said? Apparently, it isn't getting through to some people (not necessarily those who read my columns, but there are some out there still who get warned but ignore it). Dick later says:

When we say no copyrighted material we mean no copyrighted material. Your survival depends on it. Right now we feel we are a media site that can use the team name and the logo to report on the team as all media sites can. We will continue to support you in this regard. We do not have a photo contract so the only photos you can put on your sites are ones you have taken, have the rights to, or have authorization to use. Any other photo must be linked and you must acknowledge the source and take full responsibilty for providing the link. We are adding a new rule. No linked photos on the home page. Please keep in mind that we are in contact with the league offices who have provided no official guidelines for us to go by. We are trying to read between the lines. If any league submits guidelines to us we will abide by those guidelines while we work with them in order to setup a system that works for everyone.
Apparently, he's been having some problems with associated site pushing the envelope into outright illegal materials. This is how the league is going to be able to shut sites down - looking for unauthorized use of copyrighted materials. You might be able to get away with logos and any graphics/pictures you are personally responsible for. But beyond that? Who knows.

I for one don't want to wait for the first sword to fall and get someone. I'm trying to maintain as clean a site as possible. Because I plan on running the site for a long time to come. Hope you stick with me through all of this.

Enough scare talk. Write to me if you want to talk about these issues. Now get back to work on making your sites even better. Training camp is less than a month away. *grin*

wtf 4 September 1997

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