9 August 2002

Is acceptable?

Some news stories are horrific - the recent spate of child kidnappings immediately pop into mind. Other news stories anger you for other reasons - sometimes it's about an act or court ruling that assaults our sensibility and common sense. There's a third kind, however, that just incites outrcry for the fundamental rights that are violated in the interest of the well financed. This story about Major League Baseball assailing a New York Yankees fan web site is one such example. A young Yankees fan who started a site called was stunned when he received a "cease and desist" letter from Major League Baseball properties, demanding he surrender his web site name by August 20.

I believe a resolution is in the offing, but it still involves a domain name change. And Major League Baseball Properties has been targeting other fan sites, successfully shutting down and temporarily halting Lawyers for MLBP claim that they're only acting in interests of stopping intellectual property infringement.

I could see their argument if the domain name was Or some close variation like But to take common words from a dictionary and stamp ownership on them is an affront to any sense of fairness and justice. I wonder if would trigger the same MLBP response? Or what about or maybe even The real problem is that the big corporate behemoths and giant media conglomerates have the bankroll to employ a cadre of attorneys to unleash on the average web author, whose resources may not even be enough to merit an attorney consultation.

Yet this story most likely will remain "under the radar" and even if folks stumble across it, they'll figure "so what?". Then the day will come when you'll be unable to write anything containing words that are trademarked or that may be conceived as infringing on someone else's intellectual property. You won't even be able to use somebody's name without getting official permission from some sanctioned body of authority.

Finally, this is a big public relations hubris for Major League Baseball. MLB should take a hint from other entertainment vehicles like computer and video games, where game makers will actually provide an internet fan web site development kit, with a bunch of goodies for aspring webmasters to use in publicly proclaiming their love for the developer's earnest efforts. The game developer gets free publicity and can even monitor feedback on their products through the network of fan sites. It's no wonder that baseball is receding in popularity among young Americans.