Sunday, December 19, 2010

Press Credentials

Should bloggers have the same access to press credentials that trained, professional journalists have? Some would say outright no. Journalists spent the time and money to go to school, to learn how to write and report ethically and therefore, these people are entitled to press credentials. I would agree. Those who want to be professional should gain education. However, we cannot ignore the fact that some great sports writers are bloggers. They may have a bigger following than journalists. Some magazines are even including blogs or links on their sites. 

So what would cause someone who is a blogger to have their press credentials revoked? In this article Chris Botta had his press credentials taken away after criticizing a team. The team, the New York Islanders, paid for his first year. "We funded his blog for the first year. When that changed he went from reporting the news to making the news'' says Kimber Auerbach, the team's spokesperson. Maybe funding the blog was a conflict of interest. It did not permit Botta to clearly speak his mind. So does sponsorship by a team equal censorship by the blogger? Maybe so. 

Scott Rabb is dealing with a similar issue. After reporting negatively about LeBron James he was denied press credentials. Do these bloggers write derogatory comments about players that have nothing to do with their performances or do they report the game and team officials get upset? It could be a little of both. This means a sports blogger has to be careful about what he says about players and teams. If he or she can back up the words with statistics it would be difficult for a team official to get upset. However, making up things damages credibility and makes it that much more difficult for genuine writers to get press credentials. Maybe if someone wants to get into writing about sports they should pick up a sports journalism book. 

One article discusses what may be used in deciding whether or not a sports blogger gets in. One important thing to consider is the reason a sports blogger may want press credentials. The article points out the appeal of distance. One reason sports bloggers want distance is so they can comment objectively. Of course, you cannot remove personal preference. I am sure even news reporters have their preferences when interviewing politicians. Loyalty to teams runs deeper than that. Another is the thing to consider is size of his or her presence. Does he or she have faithful readers? Because they cannot grant everyone’s wishes they must choose carefully. Could it be that some popular writers insult the wrong player and the team may think the blog will lose readers? This is a possibility.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Conflict Resolution

How would you feel if you found out your lawyer was representing you and your opponent?  Perhaps you would feel your lawyer may not give his all to your cause because either way he wins the case. This may be the feelings some athletes are having. Agents who primary represented athletes are now representing the club owners and coaches as well. This creases a conflict of interest. How is the agent going to create the best deal for his athlete if he is also working to create the best deal for the owner. Certainly they have different interests. The owner wants to pay the athlete as little as he can, within reason of course. The athlete wants a record breaking deal. The coach wants the best athletes. The various interests cannot co-exist. This article by Rick Karcher describes the situation as being a violation of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. These rules are found on the American Bar Association website. This could mean some serious consequences for attorney agents. If a bad deal resulted after half-hearted negotiations a client could create a bit of noise in the media. Public attention could lead to more than a tarnished reputation.  So how does a client make sure his needs are honored by his agent if the agent has also pledged his allegiance to the boss?

It seems natural that an agent would want what is best for his athletic client. The more the client succeeds the more likely they are to stay around and demand bigger deals. But some agents are finding new ways of making money off their clients. Many find this new method unethical. In his article Dashiell Bennett comments Ted Forstmann's admission to betting on clients his firm represents. I am sure this is a violation of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. It is not in Ted Forstmann's interest, nor his clients, for him to bet for or against his clients. Besides appearing he does not have faith in his clients' abilities betting on the games his firm has a financial interest in makes him look as if he has some control over the outcome of the games. It then calls into question the legitimacy of the wins. As Bennett suggests, it is the responsibility of the agent to use the information they attain from the clients to further the clients' interests, not their own. Bennett says agents like Forstmann should not be allowed to represent clients. I have to agree

Friday, December 3, 2010

Trademark Infringement

Even though some will use a trademark and not register it is wise to register a trademark. This is important when others want to use the same or similar marks. It may be difficult to establish who had trademarks first. Trademark infringement lawsuits seem to abound in surfing. In an article by Jeff Schad Morgan Berk, co-founder of the New York Surf Film Festival sues over trademark infringement. She began using the trademark in August 2007. She registered the mark in 2007. In the following years she worked hard to develop the festival. The defendants Breuer, Cannizaro and Machemer began to control the festival and tell sponsors the originator was no longer a part of the festival. Most would pay to transfer the trademark. The defendants are infringing on her trademark because they are trying to change her brand, or create a new company, using the brand she created. This is a grey area.

A clearer form of trademark infringement is expressed in this article by Ryan Saxton Jim McGrath has created a successful surf shop called Bethany Surf Shop. Local shops have been bootlegging their shirts and using their brand on shirts they created for their stores. This confused customers who returned shirts to Bethany Surf Shop. These stores dilute the brand because they produce inferior products. When a brand works hard to create an image it can be tainted by other companies who use the brand and do not create quality. Consumers only see the brand, not the manufacturer, or retailer. They then believe the quality is the same in the different stores and no longer trust the brand. But what if you use the name, not the logo. If it is enough to call confusion and the courts believe you intentionally set out to deceive others, the plaintiff may have a case. To avoid this it is wise to use a noticeably different name and logo from any existing brand within the same industry. 

What about when a bigger company infringes on the names of trademark holders. In an article in Business Wire Kat House Productions LLC had Surf Chicks and Surf Chicks Get Wet. Mega brand Christian Dior Couture created Surf Chicks. However, Surf Chicks is not a unique mark nor is it used in another way outside of the brand's industry, for example Apple making computers and not fruit products. Therefore, one could argue Christian Dior did not tend to deceive, nor did they confuse their products, image, and reputation with that of Kat House Productions. Others could argue Christian Dior should have done research to make sure they were not using someone else's trademark. Because they both produce apparel they are not using the name outside of the industry that already owns the mark. This is another grey area. Again, it is important to use a different name and have due diligence in researching before settling on a brand name. A company such as Christian Dior has the resources to do such research.