Thursday, June 08, 2006

Baffled By Baseball

Ordinarily, when intellectual-property-types arch their backs and stiffen their feathers, I sorta understand their reasoning. I usually think they're misguided and not acting in their own best interests, and I always think they're screwing the consumer.

But I usually understand the thought process that went into their actions, even if I disagree with it.

There are even times when I am on the side of the rights-restrictors. I think, frankly, that this Cablevision PVR where the shows are stored on Cablevision's servers sounds suspiciously like the kind of pay-per-view you get in a hotel. Except Cablevision isn't paying anyone. So I see the argument against it. I see the distinction between that and a true PVR like TiVo. So I do have an open mind.

But I gotta admit, I'm going to flip over all the cards and admit that Major League Baseball has stumped me. They are pissed off about the Sling Box, my newest bestest friend, because it lets me watch my TV, TiVo or other video source no matter where in the world I am, via my PC or mobile phone.

Now bear in mind, this isn't copying the description or account of a baseball game without the express written consent of the Commissioner, which I would never do. This is watching a baseball game on my TV. Via remote control. VERY remote.

MLB's stance is that I'm paying for one device but watching the game on two. But that's the thing about the Sling Box. The person watching via Sling Box is holding the remote. His channel-changing and rewinding and so forth takes precedence over anyone who might be in the actual room, so you can't sit in the room and watch, because you'd go nuts.

Besides, MLB, I live alone. So if there's someone watching my TV when I'm not there, we have a larger problem.

So when I Sling, it's just me watching my TV. In another place.

If you want me to pay you again for that, you will pry that money from my cold, lifeless hand.

If I were sitting in the same room as the TV it would be okay, right? If I were in the next room it would be okay? If I were down the hall or in the yard it would be okay?

So the question is, how far from my TV can I get before MLB gets pissed? I'm still one person with one TV.

I guess their answer would be -- and hold on, because this gets weird -- that if my TV is in Los Angeles, and I'm in Detroit, I should be watching Detroit baseball. That by not watching Detroit baseball, I'm stealing money from Detroit broadcasters.

Which is ridiculous, of course.

Even moreso when you remember that if I'm in a hotel with the wrong TV station, I will find that the Detroit game is blacked out, and I will be forced to watch, say, the Braves. (Which, trust me, I ain't watching. I'm not one of those people who watches baseball just for the sake of watching baseball. I don't know anyone who is.)

Also, sometimes I'm not in another city, just in another place. Just commuting, or waiting in a doctor's office, or having lunch, or sitting in Starbucks. Why can't I watch the Yankees or the White Sox or the Dodgers if I can?

Now it gets even stranger, since I have the MLB package on my DirecTV. So the TV in my house has access to all baseball. Whereas the hotels I might stay at do not.

So if no one's in my house, and my expensive programming package is showing a baseball game, by MLB's logic, no one should watch it? Even though the technology exists for me to watch it from wherever I am?

They'd rather I watch no game at all?

And this is from the organization that is supposed to make baseball more popular? See what I mean about not acting in their own best interest?


norm said...

I wonder how MLB would feel about me using my cell phone to follow a game broadcast over the radio...

Michael Markowitz said...

THANK you, Norm! Perfect example! That is an example of a rebroadcast. I would be sitting in my home, listening to the radio, holding the phone to the radio while you listen to it over a cell phone. Technically unlawful.

But let's take it a step further. What if you're sitting in your living room, listening to a game on the radio, and someone walks by your window and hears it? He pulls up a chair and sits down and listens to a few innings. Creepy, but no copyright law against it, no enforcement possible.

So, let's bring it around: I'm in Chicago, watching a baseball game on my Sling Box at home, and my friend comes over to feed my cats. She turns on the TV to watch something and sees I'm watching the game and she can't watch TV. She sits down and watches a few innings.

What's the difference copyright-wise? Why is one an infringement and not the other? And I actually think, in MLB's collective mind, in the first scenario the guy outside the window is at fault, and in the second scenario, I'M at fault! Which is really screwed up.

Michael Markowitz said...

UPDATE: Cablevision to Halt Video Recorder Test

Anonymous said...

Since when do you watch baseball? And you're living alone? What a waste while I sit here alone in the Cowboy State.

Michael Markowitz said...

If you're a swimsuit or lingerie model, of someone else whose profession it is to test the tensile strength of garments, I agree!

If, on the other hand, you're a dude, best of luck in Big Sky Country!

Anonymous said...

Big Sky County is another state, Montana. Nice place, but we have more mule deer than people. And not many lingerie models, but plenty of other beautiful sites.