Without Written Permission

Techcrunch’s Duncan Riley unearths this YouTube morsel (the irony here being that uploading such a clip to YouTube also requires written permission from the NFL). The NFL is now stating that one cannot discuss a football game without written permission. It was bad enough that we couldn’t videotape football games without written permission — although, to my knowledge, there have been no smoke-filled speakeasies involving clandestine game watching and secret passwords, perhaps because the participants have remained circumspect about such iniquitious dens. Now the NFL hopes to legislate conversation around the water cooler. (Whether they actually pursue lawsuits for this sort of thing requires additional research.) Beyond the fact that this violates the spirit of fair use (much less fails to account for the realities of spontaneous conversation), it nevertheless demonstrates the arrogant and anti-First Amendment attitudes taken by some organizations, in which a reasonable protection of trademarks and copyrighted material is undermined by the natural human dissemination of names and content.

Here are some questions: Does the NFL want their teams talked about? Do they want to control the precise circumstances in which a person wears an Oakland Raiders jacket? Will they likewise curtail journalists and bloggers from writing about football players because they don’t have written permission? (And, if so, will they require tight journalistic credentials with set terms for how one writes about sports?)

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