WIAA slaps newspapers with lawsuit

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Posted by madcityradio.com on March 12, 2009 at 16:59:39:

WIAA slaps newspapers with unsportsmanlike lawsuit

A Wisconsin State Journal editorial

High school sporting events and the cherished memories they create belong to the athletes, their families, friends and fans.

They don't belong -- every word, image and sound from the biggest games -- to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association.

Yet that's what Wisconsin's high school athletic association argues in a lawsuit against The Post-Crescent newspaper in Appleton, which Webcast a high school football playoff game last fall. The lawsuit also targets the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, representing 240 publications including the Wisconsin State Journal.

Based in Stevens Point, the WIAA is asking the Portage County Circuit Court to rule that it owns any "transmission, Internet stream, photo, image, film, videotape, audiotape, writing, drawing or other depiction or description of any game action, information or commercial used" of athletic events it sponsors.

That's a breathtaking overreach. And if successful, it could deprive parents, relatives and local sports boosters from seeing and reading about their hometown kids in WIAA tournaments. The lawsuit, if successful, could significantly reduce the coverage of high school sports that millions of fans across Wisconsin get from their local newspaper, in print and online.

As if the influence of money weren't bad enough in college and professional sports, the WIAA is aggressively fighting for every nickel of potential profit it might derive from selling the exclusive rights to amateur high school tournament action.

The WIAA needs to lighten up and realize that newspapers across Wisconsin are the biggest force publicizing their events with the most in depth and continuing coverage. And with new technology, newspapers are now posting video clips and blogging about games as they occur to keep fans better informed.

The WIAA tried to fine the Wisconsin State Journal last fall for posting regular updates about the high school football finals in a blog. In 2007, the WIAA also threatened to deny entrance to tournament games to newspapers that photograph big plays and later sell copies of those photos to parents and other fans.

Let's keep high school sporting events fun and accessible to all. Selling off these memories to the highest bidder runs counter to the spirit of the games.

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