Let me get this straight. Infront Sports & Media, the company that owns the broadcast rights to the most popular sporting event in the world, the 2006 FIFA World Cup, is trying to protect its digital interests by having its law firm, the massive Baker & McKenzie, send out pre-emptive warnings to very popular Web sites about the copyright of said content, and the blogosphere is already turning on the attack?
Exhibit A: Consider this sophomoric response by Mark Frauenfelder, part of the editorial team at Boing Boing, to what I will conceed is a rather heavy-handed notice: Hideous company sends Boing Boing a pre-emptive nastygram.
Yes, the letter is heavy-handed, with threats like “you should be aware that Infront and its agents are actively monitoring your website and others to identify unlawful activity…” but I am again dismayed at the reaction to legal and corporate activity in the blogosphere, and from Boing Boing, one of the most popular weblogs on the Internet.
What bothers me about this situation is that it’s just inevitable that this is going to prove a tinderbox and within 72 hours there’ll be dozens of bloggers following in the footsteps of Boing Boing, trying to humiliate and harass the Baker & McKenzie team, without anyone even bothering to ask what I believe is the key question:
How do companies protect their content rights online?
I know that there are organizations like the perhaps even more heavy-handed Motion Picture Association of America who like to sue old ladies and kids who haven’t figured out that illegal downloads are, well, illegal, but at least with the iTunes Music Store and others, there’s some effort in the online community and industry at large to figure out how to create legal movie and video downloads.
But what of live broadcast? Between TiVO units – and the dozens of digital video recorders ranging from Mac and PC-based solutions to Dish Network and cable TV DVRs – and the seamy world of Bittorrent and the like, it’s usually only a few hours after something is broadcast that it shows up for free download or copying.
Say what you like, it’s hard to deny that this is actively defrauding the copyright holders and if you had just bid hundreds of millions for the broadcast and later Internet rights to a major event how would YOU work to defend those rights and ensure that you could later monetize that content?
(Oh, and if you’re like the editors at Boing Boing and just too Americentric to not know the staggering popularity of FIFA World Cup football (think the NBA + the NFL + the Superbowl), here’s just one number to think about: 215 different nations will be glued to their sets, watching the games).
Maybe the letter from Baker & McKenzie was the legal equivalent of a bull in the proverbial china shop, but I am just plain disappointed that the Boing Boing people have returned fire with its daft threats back to the law firm:
“Baker & McKenzie, be on alert: henceforth, Boing Boing will be actively monitoring your website to identify dumbass activity and will, if necessary, take appropriate action to point out instances of wasting clients’ money by sending out unnecessary and obnoxious warning letters.”
In this situation, I am confident that I will be the lone business blogger with this particular viewpoint and that waves of other bloggers will no doubt aggressively attack my position. As a content producer myself, however, I believe passionately in the importance and legality of copyright ownership and want to retain rights to my own works, so I can completely understand the position of Infront Sports & Media.
If you do disagree, let me ask you a question. What is it that you don’t understand about this situation that you think Boing Boing is acting honorably and appropriately in this situation?