The area with the smallest importance:irritation index in the copyright land grab for me is the sports franchises' claims that they "own" the statistics on sporting contests. I get disproportionately irritated when I hear a journalist has been ejected from a stadium for live blogging about a baseball game, for example. Lest we smugly say that's the Americans for you, there have been similar moves by the Premier League in the UK and the simple question is: how can anyone own a collection of facts?
Sports statistics are a case study in why basic research and data should go into the public domain. When basic information on anything from sports to the human genome gets fenced off and handed as property to private owners, then basic education and research gets impeded, because we need to pay for access to it.
Jonathan Rowe says "If you can own facts then you can own the truth about the past. You can control what people say and write about the past." (e.g. ‘The Wind Done Gone’ case) That's not the kind of society I want my kids growing up in and the "ownership of sports statistics is a trivial but simultaneously serious illustration of the kind of power that unbalanced intellectual property landscapes can bestow. In an information society the information laws, intellectual property prime amongst them, are the default rules of the road.
In fairness, in the latest baseball case in June this year, a judge did decide the first amendment protecting freedom of expression in the US trumped the Major League Baseball franchises and players’ IP rights. (C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc. Vs Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P. et al. in the US Appeal Court for the 8th Circuit).
In any case (due to the importance:irritation index) I've just taken a long-winded route to pointing out the latest development in the plethora of stories on IP and sports stats, which is that the National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA, has issued a set of rules "allowing" accredited journalists to indulge in limited live blogging of games.
Thanks to Michael Geist for the link to the NCAA story.
(For an extra baseball DRM bonus on this one from November see http://www.boingboing.net/2007/11/07/mlb-rips-off-fans-wh.html and http://www.nytimes.com/paidcontent/PCORG_316676.html?ex=1352264400&en=7b9267f824fbfece&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss)