Friday, March 13, 2009

In Wisconsin, a battle over who owns prep sports

The Wisconsin State Journal is writing about a youth sports dispute getting scant attention, but that is becoming a flash point in many states. That is, high school athletic associations seeking restrictions on which media outlets can take photos and record video at high school tournaments and how such content can be used.

In Wisconsin, the high school athletic association recently sued the The Post-Crescent, a newspaper in Appleton, which Webcast a prep football game last fall. The suit also takes aim at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association whose member papers print articles, run photos and - when readers seek them - sell photo reprints of game action.

The WIAA's lawsuit argues that the organization owns any "transmission, Internet stream, photo, image, film, videotape, audiotape, writing, drawing or other depiction or description of any game action, information or commercial used" of sports contests that it is in charge of.

In an editorial this week, the State Journal calls that position "a breathtaking overreach."

Continuing: "The WIAA needs to lighten up and realize that newspapers across Wisconsin are the biggest force publicizing their events with the most in depth and continuing coverage. And with new technology, newspapers are now posting video clips and blogging about games as they occur to keep fans better informed.

"The WIAA tried to fine the Wisconsin State Journal last fall for posting regular updates about the high school football finals in a blog. In 2007, the WIAA also threatened to deny entrance to tournament games to newspapers that photograph big plays and later sell copies of those photos to parents and other fans.

"Let's keep high school sporting events fun and accessible to all. Selling off these memories to the highest bidder runs counter to the spirit of the games."

As noted, this is a national problem that is repeating in state after state. Suddenly, if not unexpectedly, athletic associations and newspaper companies are seeing these games as valuable properties that can be turned into readers, eyeballs, Web traffic and, ultimately, dollars.

In the current issue of the Sports Business Journal, (registration required) I write about the issue and speak about it with newspaper editors and athletic association executives.

1 comment:

Coachhrd said...

The results of this case will be interesting. Coincidentally enough, it was the University of Wisconsin that recently forced Waukee High School to change its "W" logo because of the similarity to the University's "W" logo.