Post

Superbowl XL: Why Fair Use of Broadcast TV is So Important

February 10, 2006

Regardless of whether you hold allegiance to the Steelers or Seahawks, the debate continues on whether that first touchdown was really a touchdown.

Some may say, “It's just a game,” or “It's just one call.” But don't tell that to the football fans, and especially don't tell that to the NFL, ABC, ESPN, Disney, Sprint, Pepsi, or GM who all have a lot of money riding on the credibility of those officiating the game.

Would that credibility be enhanced or degraded if the NFL officials were the only ones allowed to see the instant replays of controvercial calls? Would the credibility be enhanced or degraded if the viewer were only allowed to see ABC / ESPN / Disney's edited version of the controvercial calls? Do these content providers have incentive to provide viewers with the full, unedited coverage of the game–or might they have more incentive to not have the officials criticized?

I submit to you the writings of Stephen Speicher, who does the Clicker column over at Engadget. In this weeks post, he discovers that in the VOD version of the Superbowl, some of the more interesting parts were edited out:

Gone was the Daryl Jackson play where one foot landed in bounds and the other hit the pylon. Touchdown? Gone was the phantom hold call. Gone was any discussion over whether Big Ben actually made it into the end zone. Gone was the flag being thrown on the Hasselbeck's tackle. Cynics might argue that the game was edited to support the NFL's conclusion of “proper officiating.”

Granted, he'd have been better off actually recording the show instead of downloading the VOD version–something that thankfully the doctrine of fair use allows. Digital technologies allow football fans and media critics alike, to record the Superbowl for personal replay, excerpt portions, provide a commentary, and post it on a website like YouTube, and promote discussion of the controvercial plays using sites like VideoBomb.

Fair use is alive and well, and these types of activities are happening all over the Internet–not just for discussion in academic settings, not just on news and public domain materials, but of which any kind of content that one decides he or she wants to make criticism or comment.

Fair use may be alive, but if incentivized parties are permitted to artificially cripple technology to prevent fair use, we may never know who really won the Superbowl.

Digg this story here