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Bloggers emboldened by league legal threats -

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Bloggers emboldened by league legal threats

The World Today - Friday, 8 May , 2009 12:34:00

Reporter: Oscar McLaren

PETER CAVE: The operators of an AFL fan blog have sent a defiant letter to the League, rejecting
demands they make sweeping changes to the blog.

A week ago the AFL sent a letter to the group of predominantly IT students in their early 20s who
run the site called "contested footy".

The AFL asserted that the blog infringed its intellectual property by using the names and nicknames
of its clubs.

It also said that images of matches and training sessions taken by the students must be taken down
and demanded to know the names of the photographers.

The bloggers now have taken legal advice and say they won't be changing anything. They say that the
league has to start thinking about its fans rather than dollars.

Oscar McLaren has this report.

OSCAR MCLAREN: The blog "contested footy" began as a University project but after receiving a
letter from the AFL, the operators feared that it might end in a bruising court case.

James Rose is one of the contributors to the site. He says he and his friends have been in turmoil
since getting a cease and desist email from the AFL last week.

JAMES ROSE: Eventually we started talking to lawyers and they gave us the advice that they could
help us with our response and that would be effectively, we're not going to change the site from
how it is now because we don't think we're obliged to.

OSCAR MCLAREN: The AFL's letter accused the site's authors of violating the league's intellectual
property:

EXCERPT FROM AFL LETTER: Please be advised that the AFL owns amongst other things registered
trademarks including the term AFL and all AFL club names and nicknames.

OSCAR MCLAREN: It continued:

EXCERPT FROM AFL LETTER: The use of the trademarks and designs by you represents or connotes that
the AFL approves of or associates itself with your website.

OSCAR MCLAREN: James Rose says he simply doesn't understand why the AFL wouldn't approve of the
site.

JAMES ROSE: Even if we were getting significant volumes of traffic which we're not, although it has
increased since the AFL sent us that letter, all they're doing is helping to promote the brand. You
know everything's positive; everything's we love football, you should love football too and this is
why. I don't see how that can be negative for their brand.

OSCAR MCLAREN: The AFL refused to be interviewed for this story. However a spokesman said that it
is, quote, "normal practice for any company to protect its intellectual property."

James Rose says the AFL shouldn't see itself like any other company with a product to sell.

JAMES ROSE: The AFL although it's now a corporation, primarily they're to govern what was a league
for the fans, you know like it was a league that started up because people wanted to play footy and
people liked going to watch it. It wasn't meant to be a commercial entity in its incarnation.

I think that you know, every now and then they've got to remember not to look at what's best dollar
wise and actually start looking at what's best for promoting the game and what's best for their
fans and those sorts of things.

OSCAR MCLAREN: The "contested footy" site is by no means that only blog of its kind online. There
are millions of fan blogs covering everything from football to opera.

Brian Fitzgerald from the Queensland University of Technology's law school says they're merely an
extension of normal discussion.

BRIAN FITZGERALD: I think what you see in things like the "contested footy" blog is what we might
have seen 10 or 20 years ago in a local newsletter or even a chat in a work space or in a coffee
shop about the game. We're now seeing a lot of the happening publicly and in the online world.

So there seems to be a need here to reconcile the game with the fans, at least a generation of the
fans are certainly going to interact and talk about the game in this new online socially networked
way.

OSCAR MCLAREN: A Senate inquiry is currently under way over how to deal with media coverage of
sport in an age when digital media are becoming more and more common.

The AFL is amongst a number of companies to have made submissions to it.

Brian Fitzgerald says he simply hopes that all parties involved are realistic about the effects of
user generated content.

BRIAN FITZGERALD: Let's face it; people take their cameras everywhere they go now because they're
basically imbedded in their mobile phones. So the idea that you can actually stop the internet or
stop people using the new technologies is really I think something that the music industry has
learned in a pretty hard way.

The more exciting thing is for the established industries whether they be sporting, entertainment
or the combination of both is to understand that there's new communities online, there are new
technologies that intersect with the sort of networked online world. How can we actually work with
that to actually gain a better and stronger fan base and also new revenue streams for the game?

PETER CAVE: Brian Fitzgerald, a professor of law at the Queensland University of Technology. That
report from Oscar McLaren.