Baker & McKenzie tries to protect FIFA World Cup so Boing Boing attacks?

Let me get this straight. Infront Sports & Media, the company that owns the broadcast rights to the most popular sporting event in the world, the 2006 FIFA World Cup, is trying to protect its digital interests by having its law firm, the massive Baker & McKenzie, send out pre-emptive warnings to very popular Web sites about the copyright of said content, and the blogosphere is already turning on the attack?
Exhibit A: Consider this sophomoric response by Mark Frauenfelder, part of the editorial team at Boing Boing, to what I will conceed is a rather heavy-handed notice: Hideous company sends Boing Boing a pre-emptive nastygram.
Yes, the letter is heavy-handed, with threats like “you should be aware that Infront and its agents are actively monitoring your website and others to identify unlawful activity…” but I am again dismayed at the reaction to legal and corporate activity in the blogosphere, and from Boing Boing, one of the most popular weblogs on the Internet.


What bothers me about this situation is that it’s just inevitable that this is going to prove a tinderbox and within 72 hours there’ll be dozens of bloggers following in the footsteps of Boing Boing, trying to humiliate and harass the Baker & McKenzie team, without anyone even bothering to ask what I believe is the key question:
How do companies protect their content rights online?
I know that there are organizations like the perhaps even more heavy-handed Motion Picture Association of America who like to sue old ladies and kids who haven’t figured out that illegal downloads are, well, illegal, but at least with the iTunes Music Store and others, there’s some effort in the online community and industry at large to figure out how to create legal movie and video downloads.
But what of live broadcast? Between TiVO units – and the dozens of digital video recorders ranging from Mac and PC-based solutions to Dish Network and cable TV DVRs – and the seamy world of Bittorrent and the like, it’s usually only a few hours after something is broadcast that it shows up for free download or copying.
Say what you like, it’s hard to deny that this is actively defrauding the copyright holders and if you had just bid hundreds of millions for the broadcast and later Internet rights to a major event how would YOU work to defend those rights and ensure that you could later monetize that content?
(Oh, and if you’re like the editors at Boing Boing and just too Americentric to not know the staggering popularity of FIFA World Cup football (think the NBA + the NFL + the Superbowl), here’s just one number to think about: 215 different nations will be glued to their sets, watching the games).
Maybe the letter from Baker & McKenzie was the legal equivalent of a bull in the proverbial china shop, but I am just plain disappointed that the Boing Boing people have returned fire with its daft threats back to the law firm:
“Baker & McKenzie, be on alert: henceforth, Boing Boing will be actively monitoring your website to identify dumbass activity and will, if necessary, take appropriate action to point out instances of wasting clients’ money by sending out unnecessary and obnoxious warning letters.”
In this situation, I am confident that I will be the lone business blogger with this particular viewpoint and that waves of other bloggers will no doubt aggressively attack my position. As a content producer myself, however, I believe passionately in the importance and legality of copyright ownership and want to retain rights to my own works, so I can completely understand the position of Infront Sports & Media.
If you do disagree, let me ask you a question. What is it that you don’t understand about this situation that you think Boing Boing is acting honorably and appropriately in this situation?

17 comments on “Baker & McKenzie tries to protect FIFA World Cup so Boing Boing attacks?

  1. The problem is that morally and legally you might be right, but the problem is practically.
    Baker & McKenzie was dumb not for seeking to protect the copyright, but for its “bull in china shop” approach.

  2. I have no issue with them protecting their interests – but I question their methodology both in terms of the language they used but also the preemptive nature. I mean they picked the boing boing of all blogs? I’d perhaps have understood a big sports blog or a blog that has a history of targetting sporting events content etc – but I don’t really see the sense of doing it this way.

  3. Exactly who attacked first here?
    “What bothers me about this situation is that it’s just inevitable that this is going to prove a tinderbox and within 72 hours there’ll be dozens of bloggers following in the footsteps of Boing Boing, trying to humiliate and harass the Baker & McKenzie team, without anyone even bothering to ask what I believe is the key question:”
    The key question is, why Boing Boing got such a letter. The any of the other A-list bloggers get one?
    Boing Boing isn’t The Pirate Bay, and isn’t even close. Boing Boing might possibly have pointed to a link down the road, but the problem would still be that particular link, not what Boing Boing may have actually done.
    Baker & McKenzie outright started a fight when they sent such an idiotic letter. Boing Boing then had every right to hold such a letter up and ridicule it. The “massive” Baker & McKenzie should be able to handle pretty much any harrasment that anybody else will give them over this. They are lawyers, and if they are tender-hearted, they are definately in the wrong profession.

  4. I want the corporate Enronish world to fear and ignore the blogosphere. I don’t want their wet pants joining the blogosphere and polluting our realm with their DRMs and copyrights and all that crappy Old Economy BS.
    Broadcast vs. podcast/blogcast/webcast.
    Broadcast is dead and is being eaten alive by the geeks. Let’s hasten it on and kick it while it’s down. MSM has lied and bullied people long enough. Now it’s time to destroy them while they’re weak and confused.

  5. I sure hope this methodology doesn’t start some sort of due diligence escalation that requires each keeper of intellectual property to preemptively send out direct mail to all Americans to protect their property. From what I can tell, BoingBoing hasn’t been a hotbed of sports reporting and it baffles me why they would get such a threatening letter.
    Aha, I just figured it out. BoingBoing is remarkably similar to the sound a soccer ball makes on pavement. Boy, those B&M folks are sharp.

  6. Uhm, so what is it again that Boing Boing did wrong in order to justify receive this C&D?
    I don’t get it.
    Either the C&D was somewhat based on reason, than Boing Boing is wrong and the Baker boys are right, or it’s based on nothing but stupidity, in which the Baker boys are, well, stupid, and Boing Boing retains every (moral, not legal) right to make fun of them.
    I’ve received my share of C&D’s or semi-C&D’s and I only make public the ones I think are silly… for the rest, I simply oblige. Making public is the blogger’s way of defending against companies with more much, much more money. And I think that’s true justice, nevermind what the legal system thinks.

  7. It’s great to think that cease and desist letters should only go to people who are already violating some copyright law or similar, but Philipp, I am sure you know as well as I do that they are quite commonly sent *preemptively* to avoid more expensive prosecution down the road.
    One quick example: a few months ago I registered the domain PorscheCountry.info for a book project and the lawyers for Porsche Motors caught it and sent me a threatening letter before I could even put up a single word on the page. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I got the letter just the same.
    And why go after Boing Boing? Well, they are widely considered the #1 weblog on the Internet, so if you want to remind the blogosphere that the FIFA World Cup material is copyright protected, wouldn’t YOU send a letter to the top player, rather than all the b-level, c-level or x-level bloggers out there, even if Boing Boing doesn’t explicitly cover World Cup soccer or public sporting events?
    None of the commentators here have addressed what I believe is the key question: if you were Infront, how would YOU be protecting your online rights to the broadcast and later streaming of the World Cup games and events?

  8. Here you go then: “protecting your online rights to the broadcast and later streaming of…etc.” is Old Economy, poor outmoded strategy, like wishing there were no mosquitoes at night, and making laws against their biting, but reality happens.
    Fighting, protecting, safeguarding, DRM, exclusive rights to a public event, etc. are all Old Economy drivel, and fading fast.
    As Alvin Toffler is announcing in “Revolutionary Wealth”, there is a Korporate Katrina coming, and it is this “protect broadcast and every other conceivable format of media and distribution of this PRODUCT” that will be devastated by the New Share Economy Technology, driven by the faux inevitability engine of The Technological Imperative.
    Technology and info dissemination is racing ahead of law and command-and-control territorial organizations.
    Public events occur in the digital effluvium now, as YouTube has demonstrated, and everything is accessible to everyone in any sequence, in any format, at any time, in any amount.
    Corporations and media conglomerates must launch guerilla marketing forces, in niches and crannies, to work with, and not whine against, the new methods and tools of “content creation, distribution, and consumption”.

  9. The problem is creating a trend of lawyers sending oppressive letters with preemptive attacks.
    I was a trial lawyer for 17 years. I know the impact it has on another’s life to receive a letter that a large law firm and corporation are ready to come down on you like a ton of bricks. It’s not a ‘look what I got at the office today Honey, what’s for dinner’ kind of thing.
    B&M has 3,300 lawyers and their client has a ton of money to pay for legal fees. So now we can encourage firms and clients to start sending out like letters like this to bloggers going from paycheck to paycheck who do not have $25,000 that it would cost to retain a law firm to fire off a response to a firm like B&M? That’s nuts.
    No response needed by the blogger here. But why encourage firms to start firing off nuclear threats like this.

  10. Asking “What should InFront do?” is I think the wrong question here. The question is: how can legally sound conduct be implemented without a constant barrage of heavy-handed, demeaning, and inaccurate threats?
    3 cheers to BoingBoing — and if business is so stupid not to be able to sort the forest from the chaff in this environment, then they richly deserve to fail!
    The way things are done is as important as what is actually done — BoingBoing’s reaction is hardly ‘sophmoric’, and I wish more firms suffering legal assault and battery would take this position.

  11. I second Kevin O’Keefe’s comments. I’m a litigator, and the primary rule of sending a cease-and-desist letter is to have a good faith belief that what you are saying is true. You protect your rights through advance warnings on the product, by publicizing and educating about copyright law, and by selective targeting of verified abuses of the law. these things shouldn’t be sent out lightly, because for most people, getting these letters not only ruins their day, it ruins their month. If a lawyer sends one of these out in error, they need to apologize.

  12. How would you react if you recieved this letter?
    We act for the child defence fund which aids law enforcement agencies in the fight against child pornography.
    The child defence fund anticipates the streaming and downloading of child pornography. The child league and its agents are therefore taking strong measures to prevent such unlawfull activities, both civilly and criminaly.
    In this respect you should be aware that the child league and its agents are monitoring your website and others to identify unlawful activity, and will, if necessary, take appropriate action to ensure the rights of children.
    Please let us know if there is a particular person or persons at your organisation whom we should speak to and who should be a fitst point of contact in the event we learn of a problem connected to your website.
    faithfully
    Dewey, Cheatum and Howe
    I assume you would be offended that someone is calling you a potential child porn distributor. Well, Boing Boing is rightfully offended at being called a potential world cup broadcast pirate. Then again, maybe you’d have no problem with random legal firms sending threatening letters containing baseless allegations.

  13. Then again, lawyers already have a bad reputation. What better way to get the message out about copyrighted material than to send a C&D to a popular blog that will likely publish it in order to ridicule it? As a result, B&M maintains their bad reputation that says “don’t mess with us or we’ll send 3,300 lawyers after you (ketchup stained trousers included)” and Infront gets free advertising for its exclusive rights to World Cup footage. Maybe B&M anticipated this kind of response?

  14. Bulls in china shops will get bad PR. Bulls in china shops may also be put on notices that they are bad potential business parters or clients. With the internet, premtively treating people like criminals no longer passes without comment. Your and my opinion don’t really count in this given the Ocean of BoingBoings, et al.
    On the otherhand, Baker & McKenzie got extremely widespread unpaid publicity on a perceived problem, didn’t they? Pretty good move on their part.

  15. I think that Baker & McKenzie were unquestionably swatting mosquitos with a hammer by using such aggressively worded letters to warn blog sites. I also think Boing Boing was suckered into making themselves look bad by responding in kind.
    It comes down the the old saying:
    Never argue with an idiot, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

  16. I am not supporting the reaction from Boing Boing. Infront Sports & Media is a business just like Boing Boing and for that reason needs to protect its properties at all cost.

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