Sports Reporters Join Forces To Fight Limits On Web Video Coverage on Rugby

Media organizations have banded together to fight efforts by sports organizers to block multimedia coverage of events. Recent months have seen the NFL limit website video interviews to 45 seconds, Cricket Australia drop a fair-use understanding under which broadcasters had run two minutes of matches to accompany reports and Australia’s National Rugby League banned Fox Sports from running National Rugby League video of the same duration on its website. Latest to ruffle sports writers’ feathers is Rugby World Cup ’07 organizer the International Rugby Board, which, amongst other restrictions, is limiting websites to running 10 match photos for this fall’s competition in France. So some 30 groups representing news publishers have grouped to lobby to “defend the freedom of the press to report events without hindrance”. (Via Sports Journalists’ Association).

At issue is the extent to which sports organizers can protect the rights bought by broadcasters, now that the web allows anyone – whether sports writer or spectator – to publish video, photo and near-live ball-by-ball coverage online, even from a stadium during a match. Winning bidders for rights to broadcast major sporting events may not be too happy if rivals can record, moblog, even offer live stadium streaming of those same events at little cost. A Louisville Courier-Journal sports writer was last month barred from a local baseball game for posting play-by-play updates live to the title’s website, while the International Cricket Committee cracked down on over-by-over text updates from the World Cup in the West Indies. But such restrictions seem increasingly old-fashioned in the emerging multimedia age – The Guardian has offered ball-by-ball cricket updates to success for several years, not by situating a reporter at a ground but by typing at the keyboard whilst watching TV coverage.