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Temporary (I hope) Insanity in the NCAA

WARNING:  This post falls firmly under the rubric of "rant".  If you are looking for UK basketball analysis, please scroll down.

The NCAA has revoked the press credentials of a  blogger for the Courier-Journal, who was apparently live-blogging a U of L vs. Oklahoma State baseball game.

The NCAA's reason for sending Brian Bennett packing is ostensibly the following:

The College World Series Media Coordination staff along with the NCAA Broadcasting group needs to remind all media coordinators that any statistical or other live representation of the Super Regional games falls under the exclusive broadcasting and Internet rights granted to the NCAA's official rights holders and therefore is not allowed by any other entity. Since blogs are considered a live representation of the game, 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.

What the NCAA is saying here is that because they "consider" blogs to be a "live" media, anyone who uses them to communicate event details during the game is violating their copyrights.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is a flagrant, obvious and absolutely brazen misinterpretation of copyright law, specifically what may be copyrighted and what may not.  The instant after an event occurs, it passes from the realm of "live" to the realm of "fact".  It would be the same thing as forbidding a patron to call a friend on his cell phone and update the score.

The idea that a blogger's observation of game events is equivalent to a radio or TV broadcast is beyond absurd, and would surely not survive a legal challenge.  Jon Fleischaker, the Courier-Journal's attorney when it comes to First Amendment issues, has already spoken Rick Bozich this, and Bozich has written an article on the subject today:

"Once a player hits a home run, that's a fact. It's on TV. Everybody sees it. (The NCAA) can't copyright that fact. The blog wasn't a simulcast or a recreation of the game. It was an analysis."

The question is though, will there be a legal challenge?  The NCAA had this to say to the Courier-Journal:

During the middle of yesterday's game, Courier-Journal representatives were told by two members of the U of L athletic staff that if the school did not revoke Bennett's credential it would jeopardize the school's chances of hosting another NCAA baseball event.

Why am I blogging about the trials of U of L in a baseball game, and what has this to do with the Kentucky Wildcats?  Everything.  The NCAA is engaging in an act of extortion and thuggery by threatening U of L's opportunity to host NCAA events over this "interpretation" of it's rights.  In my opinion, the NCAA is wrong, both in it's interpretation of the law and its behavior in general in this case, and if this battle goes to court, I think the NCAA will lose -- HUGE.

Unfortunately, that is just the problem.  The NCAA would then simply not allow U of L to host any events in retribution for a lawsuit exposing it's fraudulent interpretation of law.  This is an outrage, and this could just as easily happen to us as to them.

By the way, congratulations to the Cardinals for advancing to the college world series.  Too bad their bloggers won't be able to report on the games, thanks to the disgustingly byzantine and flagrant abuse by the NCAA of the authority granted it by it's member institutions.

Thanks to More Than Derby and SPORTSbyBROOKS for bringing this to our attention.  You can find their take on the subject at the links above.

John Clay has his take on this story over at Sidelines.  He also has some links to a few others who are reporting on the story.

Michael David Smith at the AOL Fanhouse blogs on this story.

The Knoxville News weighs in, making several of the same points as yours truly.

Eric McErlain of AOL Fanhouse has a different take, basically taking the position that the NCAA, as well as various professional leagues, have always had this restriction:

Why did I go to all that trouble? Because before I ever climbed in the press box, I was well aware of the restrictions that the NHL, like other sports leagues, places on real-time accounts of games in progress. After all, what red-blooded American kid can't recite the following line from memory: Any rebroadcast, reproduction, or other use of the pictures and accounts of this game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is prohibited.
He's right, up to a point, but there are several points of difference in this case.  One involves a potential question of an unconstitutional prior restraint on the press.  The second involves a misunderstanding about what "real time" is.  Bloggers cannot give "real time" descriptions -- it is a practical impossibility.