May 29, 2007 | By Fred von Lohmann

Major League Baseball Rattles Sabre at Slingbox

We've all heard about the Slingbox, the innovative product that lets you enjoy the TV you've paid for from where ever you might be. Well, here's what Michael Mellis, senior VP and general counsel for Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), had to say about the Slingbox in this week's issue of The Hollywood Reporter Esq. [sorry, subscribers only], a weekly for entertainment industry legal eagles:

"Of course, what they are doing is not legal," he said. We and other leagues have formed a group to study the issue and plan our response. A lot depends on ongoing discussions. Plus, there's no guarantee that Slingbox will be around next year. It's a startup."

Apparently MLBAM is upset because a Slingbox might allow baseball fans to "circumvent geographical boundaries written into broadcast rights deals" (read: watch games that are blacked out in their area). The argument appears to be that watching games remotely, even games you've paid to watch and that are not blacked out at home, violates the contractual fine print that comes with those cable and satellite sports packages that the fans are buying.

In other words, MLBAM thinks that it's against the law for baseball fans who have paid for premium sports packages to watch while away from home.

Yes, once again, the fans who are paying their bills are treated like the enemy.

This should sound familiar: an entertainment company targeting an innovator by arguing that otherwise law-abiding fans who use its products are thieves for doing so. This same argument was leveled at ReplayTV and XM's Inno recorder.

As usual, the "content owner" here appears to believe that innovation should be halted until paranoid fears can be allayed (read: until the innovator pays MLBAM and redesigns the product to its specifications).


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