If Major League Baseball (MLB) wants to know why fans are fleeing for other sports and baseball is no longer the national pastime, it need no look no further than the nearest mirror. Not only have ticket prices gone through the roof ($300-plus for a family of four to attend a Red Sox game), Major League Baseball acts as if it owns every fragment of the game.
The League didn’t like online fantasy baseball games making money from the unauthorized use of players’ names and real-life statistics. So MLB claimed that it owns such basic facts about the game as a matter of copyright law and, when that argument failed, as a “publicity right.” (The League ultimately lost: see http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20060808/1850214.shtml.) Now MLB is threatening Little League teams for trademark violations if they use the names of major-league teams but buy their uniforms from non-MLB suppliers. Then there is the case of the Obama supporter who made a t-shirt featuring Obama’s name in a script often associated with baseball uniforms. MLB considered this a trademark infringement.
Major League Baseball once flourished because it treated the game as an open-source element of culture, something that belonged to all of us. But now that the League insists upon monetizing every aspect of the game, and shows contempt for youngsters who are sustaining the game’s popularity, it’s time to move on. Why support a business that can’t respect its biggest fans?