Bud must have thought this up at a cocktial party.... "I've got one that Bill James never thought of ..... 'The Nasty Factor' ... "
Mark McClusky wrote:Baseball Throws Web a Curve
02:00 AM Nov. 27, 2003 PT
Among the major professional sports leagues in the United States, Major League Baseball has consistently been the most innovative in covering its games and promoting its league online. In the past three years, MLB and its interactive division, MLB Advanced Media, has introduced dozens of online products, from radio shows to live video feeds of most major league games.
But during this off-season, MLB is on a quest to assert what it considers are its exclusive rights to transmit real-time information about its games online. And some of its partners aren't buying it.
The battle is being waged over what are commonly called gamecasts: real-time descriptions of baseball games, including who's batting, what pitches are thrown, the game situation and the outcome of each pitch. These online presentations of games are a standard feature of many sports websites, from MLB's own site, to ESPN.com, SI.com, Yahoo and CBS Sportsline.
"If someone is communicating information about a game in real time, on a pitch-by-pitch basis, that's an exhibition of that game," said Bob Bowman, the CEO of MLB Advanced Media. "There's no difference, in our eyes, between exhibiting a game using text and graphics and doing it on radio or television."
Using that argument, MLB says that it is entitled to a license fee, or that some other accommodation needs to be reached regarding gamecasts. What it is sure of is that anyone doing a gamecast needs to secure the rights to do so from MLB.
However, some of the other sites and companies involved in producing these sorts of gamecasts disagree. ESPN subsidiary SportsTicker has recently agreed to use statistics provided by MLB in their updates, but ESPN emphasizes that the agreement covers just SportsTicker and has nothing to do with its gamecasts.
"Our recent agreement is a small piece and a reflection of a positive, wide-ranging relationship with MLB, not a statement of either side's legal rights," said ESPN in a statement. "To characterize it as anything more is an overstatement."
The legal issues around sports-score updates are cloudy. In 1996, the National Basketball Association sued STATS Inc., a provider of real-time statistical information, and Motorola, the pager manufacturer, to prevent them from offering real-time information on NBA games while they were in progress. This information included the time remaining in the game, the score and who was in possession of the ball.
The case was first heard in district court in New York, where the court held that STATS and Motorola were using the NBA's proprietary data -- the real-time data of the games -- to make a profit in violation of New York state law.
But the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit later overturned that ruling, stating that since the underlying facts of the game, such as the score, aren't copyrightable and since STATS and Motorola had spent their own time and money collecting that data, the service could continue.
"We fully support the conclusion in the Motorola case," said MLB's Bowman. "We don't think of broadcasting of the score every half-inning as an exhibition of the game. But if you're describing what happens every time the pitcher moves his arm, that is an exhibition of the game. Anything more granular than every half-inning is something we think might be a problem."
Mark Conrad, a professor of sports and new media law at Fordham University, says that the issue is unclear.
"It's a tug of war between copyright and the exemption made for news," said Conrad. "It's tough for a court to find guidance on issues like this. There's probably a line there somewhere, between every half-inning and a television broadcast. This isn't an issue that's going to go away."
Yawn .... baseball sueing its fans ... go figure ..Here's the good stuff
MLB is continuing to add new features to its gamecasts. For the 2004 season, it will add a "ball tracker" that will chart the speed, location and trajectory of each pitch in the game. These numbers will be crunched, and a new statistic, a "Nasty Factor," will describe how hard a pitcher is to hit. Also, the speed of ground balls will be measured, to give some idea of how hard a play is to make.
"We think these new features are going to be something that fans become very interested in," said Bowman. "We think they'll end up being used on television and at the ballpark, as well as online." Are they really that out of touch with reality ....
To get this information online, fans will have to subscribe to a new, "ultra" version of gamecast. Bowman says that the service will cost several dollars a month. The basic version of the gamecasts will still be available for free. and we get to pay for it? wow great deal ..
As for other sites and their gamecasts, Bowman is optimistic that a solution will be reached that everyone can live with.
"There are some people who are in the camp of saying that they've collected data, and they can do what they want with it," said Bowman. "But in general, most people, while they may not salute our position, they understand it and are working with us toward a solution. We have rights, and we're going to protect them."