Tuesday, December 1, 2009

36 Questions: What rights do the MLBPA hold?

I have a 2009 Fenway Park calendar…shocking as that must be. It’s an especially cool calendar in my case since I was at a few of the games they feature. The Calendar is licensed by MLB, so it has the Red Sox logo plastered everywhere. It’s the old circle logo, but I’ll give them a break since it’s the first year. The calendar is not, apparently, licensed by the MLB Players Association. It was interesting to me what I guess that means.

Most of the pictures are nice scenic shots of Fenway taken from well up in the stands. You can’t really tell who the players are unless you really think about it. That big guy in left with the long hair is probably Manny Ramirez. I assumed that was part of the lack of MLBPA license. They couldn’t have the players recognizable without their rights. The odd part was that they also airbrushed away their numbers. The May pictures us a nice action shot. There’s a batter at the plate awaiting the pitch. There are runners on at first and third, ready to pounce. But, I can’t concentrate on the action. My eyes are drawn to the solid white backs on the batter, third base coach, and the runner at third. The Players somehow own the rights to their numbers? The Red Sox don’t own the rights to the number 34 written in a Red Sox font…the player does? That seems a little odd. Does that only apply to the current player wearing the number? Can Steve Avery allow the licensing of a glut of “Red Sox 33” merchandise…or does it have to be Tek? If there is no current member wearing the number, is it up for grabs? Could the calendar have photo shopped in the number 21?

In the August photo, there’s a shot of the centerfield jumbotron. The player’s picture has been blacked out, as well as his name. The stats remain, though. So, if you really wanted to check, you could probably figure out who it would have been. But, the MLBPA has the rights to a picture that happens to be in the background? What about the fact that I can pretty easily figure out that it’s Dice-K on the mound? How is that different? In November, it got a little weirder. Again, there’s a jumbotron shot. Again the player’s picture has been blacked out. This time, there are no stats either. But, the player’s name is still there…it’s just slightly blurry. You can pretty easily tell that it’s Grady Sizemore though. So, they went through the trouble of removing everything else…but left the players name? Can they use the name as long as there’s not other identifying information? Without the picture or the stats, could it be some other “Grady Sizemore” who happened to be batting leadoff for the Cleveland Indians? Where is the line in the sand?

Who decides which rights are which?

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