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August 18, 2009

Can college sports ban social media?

Posted: 02:54 PM ET

Any baseball fan is familiar with MLB's frequent reminders not to rebroadcast a game without "the express written consent of Major League Baseball." But did you ever consider that your Facebook, Twitter or blog posts could be targeted by overzealous media regulations?

Can the SEC prohibit fans from sharing pictures similar to this iPhone shot of a Braves game I posted to my Facebook profile? Should they even bother trying?

According to current policy, Southeastern Conference (SEC) fans cannot "produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information."

Adam Ostrow, of, translates that to mean "no Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, TwitPic, or any other service that could in any way compete with authorized media coverage of the event."

The SEC media-credential policy also states that violations may result in "ejection from the Event and prosecution for criminal trespass."

Conference spokesman Charles Bloom told the Charlotte Observer there are plans to loosen the restrictions, but the current policy forbids tweeting from the stands.

While speaking with CNN, Attorney Evan Brown questioned the legality of the SEC policy. Brown equates a ban on social media in state-sponsored schools to a violation of the First Amendment and a form of prior restraint.

Media-coverage rights to sporting events have always been expensive and, consequently, heavily policed (this year the U.S. Open banned all cameras and phones) but can social media possibly be restrained?

Could social media ever compete with authorized media coverage in a way that would threaten profits and rationalize SEC's media policy?

Bloggers Adam Ostrow, Evan Brown and Steve Raquel discussed the SEC policy today on Live (Watch Video).


This afternoon the SEC released a revised version of its media policy (pdf). The revision provides exemptions for noncommercial updates and personal messages.

The new policy reads:

No Bearer may produce or disseminate in any form a “real-time” description or transmission of the Event (i) for commercial or business use, or (ii) in any manner that constitutes, or is intended to provide or is promoted or marketed as, a substitute for radio, television or video coverage of such Event. Personal messages and updates of scores or other brief descriptions of the competition throughout the Event are acceptable.

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Filed under: Facebook • Flickr • Internet • iPhone • online news • schools • Twitter

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Matthew   August 18th, 2009 4:14 pm ET

You cannot stop people from spreading information.

Such policies do nothing to stop people from taking pictures and spreading them on the Internet. It is literally impossible to prevent without having everyone undergo a strip search and body cavity search, followed by confiscating anything and everything that could be used to take a picture or make a picture – Phones, cameras, pens, papers, etc.

All they can do is make a better product than what the fans in the stands can offer, and given the quality of their cameras and the seating they get, this is not a problem.

Policies such as these should be illegal. The wording, specifically the "accounts and descriptions" segment, makes it seem like it's illegal to even talk about a game.

David   August 18th, 2009 4:39 pm ET

If you read the SEC policy carefully, it is clear that it applies only to those who have media credentials, not fans. Nowhere in the policy does it say anything about fans being prohibited from tweeting, taking photos, etc. The entire policy applies only to those who have media credentials, an important distinction.

Ivandsufh   August 18th, 2009 6:25 pm ET

I think that Ncca is starting to Go to far.. as in not being free like it used to be

Mike   August 18th, 2009 8:32 pm ET

Typical BS & greed from the Corporate Sports Industrial Complex....always out there to try to grab every last dollar they can from their fans.....they charge outrageous ticket prices, $10 sodas, $5 hot dogs, and ban photos & social media so no one infringes on their lame a$$ monopoly so they can charge media outlets & others high fees for photos, video, etc. What A SCAM !

Andy   August 18th, 2009 8:43 pm ET

It's to protect content from piracy violations not to stop people from taking photos or making MySpace comments. If networks other than those that paid for the content were allowed to stream the media or professional photographers were allowed to take photos and sell them it would take away all of the value of that content.

Amateur activity is not large enough to threaten a network contract, although if you posted a youtube video of the entire game they would view that as just as bad and should be equally banned.

It's good that these colleges can get revenue from this sort of thing. It gives money to help young players develop and helps keep the cost of tuition fees down for all students.

BAM   August 18th, 2009 9:22 pm ET

If you read the article, "Conference spokesman Charles Bloom told the Charlotte Observer there are plans to loosen the restrictions, but the current policy forbids tweeting from the stands." Therefore, a conference spokesperson does explicitly state that this prohibits tweeting - no exception is mentioned for fans. In fact, he does say the stands and not the press box. This policy is to prevent any type of coverage that would compete with the official coverage of the event. Live blogging is possible now that could actually create competition with CBS which they will do anything to stop regardless of what creditials a person has.

In fact, the policy must have banned fans from using social media because they have since released a revised version of the policy. See:

Ourkie   August 18th, 2009 11:14 pm ET

Good luck with enforcement.

Sneeje   August 19th, 2009 8:50 am ET

It matters not whether this is targeted at fans or media, it affects the fans and has detrimental unintended consequences for the SEC. Fans want access to information and content–the more the SEC restricts access to this content the more they temper their fans enthusiasm, which will result in less participation and less support.

It is a myth that "protected" content results in protected sales–it relies on a false assumption that all those who would have had access to the content would have paid for it to begin with (only a small percentage would).

Jason   August 19th, 2009 3:06 pm ET

I love the multi billion dolloar organizations are concerned about my 4 mega pixel without zoom camera phone.
We live in an interesting culture. A culture that provides camera phones, twitter, and facebook but then tell us we can't use them. Hmmm

Bill   August 19th, 2009 4:38 pm ET

I love seeing this stuff. It is like the people who make these decisions are deliberately trying to step in front of the freight train that is a networked and modern world.

As you can see, they have already loosened the restrictions. I wish they wouldn't have so that those involved could witness their futile attempt to regulate information get completely and utterly destroyed by the public at large.

Brandon   August 20th, 2009 10:20 am ET

If this is the case? I will never attend a sporting or entertainment event! Plain and Simple. This world is all about making sure no one can keep MEMORIES, you MUST keep coming back to more and more games and events! Well thats not the case, Because eventually, everyone will stop going to that event because of it and it will run out of business!!!

They need to stop CONTROLLING our lives, stick to sports, that what you do

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