Thursday, August 20, 2009

SEC The Next Evil Empire?

According to Michael Kruse of the St. Petersburg Times, the SEC is making a bold move that would make even Senator Palpatine envious.

But the battlefield here is not the Galactic Empire, but the SEC's exlcusive TV contract that generates billions for the conference.

The SEC, one of college sports' biggest, richest, most prominent conferences, earlier this month sent to its 12 schools an eye-opening new media policy. It places increasingly stringent limits on reporters and how much audio, video and "real-time" blogging they can do at games, practices and news conferences.

But even more interesting is that the policy also includes rules for fans in the stands. No updating Twitter feeds. No taking photos with phones and posting them on Facebook or Flickr. No taking videos and putting them on YouTube.

How do you like them apples Penn State fans? Granted, this is not the NCAA--only the SEC--but you can rest assured if the policy takes hold down south, the powers that be will look to protect the Big Ten Network's assets as well.
But will it work?

Much of the fan reaction over the past week — aside from open-mouthed exasperation — has focused on enforcement. Namely: How?
Said David Hooper of the Tennessee fan site Rocky Top Talk: "They'll be chasing shadows."

I disagree. The Internet is not an anonymous place. Take for instance the issue of copying on-line music without paying for it. Last October, the Recording Industry won a case against a woman for downloading music--she lost and it cost her over $200,000! In that case . . .
During the three-day trial, record companies presented evidence they said showed the copyrighted songs were offered by a Kazaa user under the name "tereastarr." Their witnesses, including officials from an Internet provider and a security firm, testified that the Internet address used by "tereastarr" belonged to Thomas.

Maybe there's a way to have a hidden YouTube or Facebook Account, but I doubt it. It would seem to me that all the SEC has to do is see the video on the web and track it down to the person who posted it, just like the recording industry did against Jamie "aka tereastarr" Thomas. I don't think they'll be able to do anything about texting an update to a friend or passing a picture to a family member, but once the material is public, it can be tracked.

In a worst case scenario, the SEC could ban cameras and cell phones from football games and throw out ticket holders who break the rules--it might not stop the proliferation of unauthorized material, but it would seriously impede fans from doing so. It is also possible that Internet sites like YouTube and Facebook will not allow such postings as it may open them to potential lawsuits.

As the article discussed, the major emphasis is more on circumventing the issue now, before the technology becomes even better. It will be interesting to see how this power struggle plays out.

As a member of the "free press"--those that comment on sports events without actually getting paid for it--I am obviously against this policy. I understand the SEC's position and interest, and I agree that videotaping the event in high definition and selling DVDs afterward for profit is crossing the line. But a student taping the student section during a whiteout and posting it on YouTube should still be allowed to do so. And I should still be free to express my comments about the game on the interent with impunity.

But then again, my Buckeye Buddy "DICK" was a marine who fought for our freedoms but doesn't think I am allowed to an express an opinion that he disagrees with, so I guess it all comes down to who has the power to make the rules.

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