On Wednesday, Major League Baseball and Apple combined to take down numerous baseball podcasts from iTunes.  What resulted was a PR disaster for the league and MLB Advanced Media, who appeared to be bullying their most loyal fans.  The fan podcasts were taken down because of trademark infringements due to the use of MLB team names in the titles or descriptions.  

MLBAM released a statement later in the day blaming Apple for taking down the podcasts after asking for the trademarks to be removed.  MLBAM’s statement left more questions than answers and instead of taking responsibility and/or apologizing, they decided to pass the buck on to Apple.  The end result is still the same – the core of MLB’s fanbase, who love the sport and want to see it grow, have been punished by some combination of MLB and Apple for merely talking about and trying to help promote the sport and the teams that they love.

Yesterday we asked anyone who had their podcast taken down to write in and tell us about the events that transpired.  We heard from several baseball podcasters as you’ll see below.  To this point, none of their podcasts have been restored on iTunes.  What emerges is a common theme – honest people who would gladly comply with any requests from MLBAM, but were simply not given the chance to do so.  Instead of contacting these podcasters and making trademark requests, the podcasts were taken down entirely without any advance warning or any communication whatsoever.

The fact that MLB and MLBAM would allow this to happen to their most loyal fans is a very disconcerting sight for the future of the sport and its relationship with fans.

My podcast network RoyalsPodcast, featuring four podcast about the KC Royals was knocked off itunes.  I assumed something like this would be coming down the pipeline eventually and am already in construction on MLBPodcastHub.com and majorbaseballpodcast.com a site that can house all teams fan podcasts.

Between the four shows we have over 300 shows that have been produced.

We have a good relationship with the Royals and have had numerous members of the broadcast team and front office staff on our shows.  We were not emailed anything to our RoyalsPodcast@yahoo.com email nor did I receive anything to my personal email.

Clint Scoles, Royals Podcast

Hi there – I started the show in 2008 – back when the Rangers weren’t very good and finding intelligent conversation about the team was hard to come by – and have done 73 shows. I’ve had players, announcers, beat writers etc on the show from time to time. But mostly it’s a roundtable discussion with other fans. Never had amy complaints or red flags for inappropriate content, and I had support from many inside the Ranger organization.

I make no money from these shows. It’s a cliche, but it really is a labor of love to have a chance to get together with other fans and talk about our favorite teams. We were critical at times, but no more than your typical sports-talk show. If anything it’s free advertising for the team and the MLB brand.

I know there are other places I can use to get my show out to the public, but 90-95% of my downloads come form iTunes. I average 10-15,000 downloads an episode.

– Ted Price, Rangers Podcast in Arlington

The Bleacher Nation Podcast, which has been around for a couple years and 50-or-so episodes, was taken down from the iTunes store yesterday. The notice I received gave no indication why it had been removed, so, like many, I was left scrambling this morning to figure out why.

Thankfully (for me, at least), a number of other legitimate podcasts were taking down, so we could collectively figure out that it apparently originated with a request from MLB/MLBAM to address certain podcasts in iTunes.

Once again, I can only guess as to the reason, since there has been no notice or explanation whatsoever, but I think this was legitimately my own fault. The image I used at iTunes included a small Cubs logo, although doing so was not an intentional trademark/copyright infringement – I simply wanted to use a picture of my headphones and microphone, and it just so happens that my headphones have a Cubs logo on them. A clear mistake on my part, but a totally honest one.

The description of the podcast also included “Chicago Cubs,” but that’s because, well, it’s a podcast about the Chicago Cubs. Kind of hard to describe it any other way. I don’t really think there was any risk of confusion in the market that this was an “official” Cubs podcast, but I updated the name and description to make it very clear.

In truth, I have absolutely no problem with MLBAM enforcing its rights, and I was clearly in the (accidental) wrong here. I could debate whether they and/or Apple went too far in having podcasts taken down for merely having the name of the team in the title of the podcast, but I don’t really have much room for that, given that I was clearly wrong about the logo issue.

The problem I do have, however, is the scorched earth approach to enforcing the trademark/copyright issue, whether it came from MLB/MLBAM or Apple. Had I received any kind of notice whatsoever – “Hey, man, your podcast image has a Cubs logo in it, and that’s a no-no – also, could you indicate that it’s not officially connected to the Cubs? Thanks!” – I would have immediately complied. I’m not looking to step on anyone’s intellectual property here, and I don’t want anyone thinking that the Bleacher Nation Podcast (or the site, itself) is affiliated with MLB in any way.

Brett Taylor, Bleacher Nation

My Giants podcast was removed. We had been active since December 2010. Here’s the message:

mlbpoddown

We’ve been publishing since December 2010, with 115 episodes so far. Each episode gets 100-300 downloads on average. The Giants know about us, and we’ve gotten press passes at least a dozen times, probably more. I emailed my guy at the Giants today and he said this was the first he’s heard of it.

Daniel Zarchy, GiantsPod

Thanks for your interest in this. Obviously, it’s near and dear to my heart as a podcaster, but I really think it’s an important issue for baseball fans who are passionate enough about the team and the sport to want to actively engage with other fans about it. If MLB’s “advanced” media arm can’t find a way to encourage this, they don’t understand advanced media. They also don’t understand/care which hands are feeding them.

My podcast was removed forom iTunes because it was deemed that the way we titled our feed was in violation of MLB’s copyrights. I found out about this after action was taken to remove my show from the iTunes directory. I received an email from Apple with no details on the actual reasons. Just an FAQ with the “various reasons” that podcasts could be rejected.

No, this was no oversight. I believe that Apple took down any podcasts it felt matched MLB’s criteria to cover themselves from any liability. And they did so in a way that tells me they don’t care about those hundreds of podcasters as content providers. They made zero effort to communicate with them to resolve this issue.

MLB and Apple would have been much better served to send the affected podcasts an email clearly stating the policy, and giving them a deadline for compliance. There may have been grumbling, but I bet many would have done it without all this negative attention to Apple and MLB.

To say that this move was “draconian” would be overly dramatic, it was stupid. A clumsy move that damages the credibility of two companies that should be leaders in a field they’re trying to quell – new media.

I understand artwork, but my podcast was pulled down because it was titled “Bird’s Eye View – Orioles Podcast.” This was done to help people find us when they searched for “Orioles podcast.” I have real concerns about disallowing the name of a team in the title of an original work. It would be nice to have a vehicle for that dialogue, instead of a shouting mess, as the internet usually provides.

Jake English, Bird’s Eye View

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.

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