In a story you probably missed this week, Major League Baseball announced it will monitor the way fans at games use new live-streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope, since play is licensed content and MLB policy prohibits fans from taking live video.
Not surprisingly, MLB has articulated no plan, beyond monitoring, for responding to people who violate the video policy. If you want to split a hair, you can note that baseball fans could have been taking video on their phones for years and sending it to their friends. But with these new apps that broadcast video to lots of people, MLB's "licensed content" could reach considerably larger audiences.
The problem for MLB is not that fans will broadcast too much baseball, but that they will despair of finding something worthwhile to broadcast, other than the four drunks in a fistfight the next section over. Kind of like rock-climbing, baseball is long periods of abject boredom broken by 30 seconds of heart-pounding excitement. In order to get that rare interesting play, you have to roll your phone until the battery is dry, hoping to capture the unexpected that breaks the monotony of watching a game.
MLB should invite fans to record games and broadcast them all over the world -- in hopes that somebody, somewhere will find it interesting. Frankly, the most compelling things about MLB happen off the field, such as ruminations about how to shorten the game (please!), to those substance abuse issues, to excoriating fans who reach into the field of play to grab foul balls.
The last time I took one of my kids to Yankee Stadium, between parking, tickets (not that great -- well beyond third base in mezzanine), and food, I dropped about $500. And it was a boring-as-hell 2-1 game. Yes, there is something exciting about being under the lights in a relatively new stadium, especially when the Yankees are playing the Red Sox -- but what happens on the field doesn't come close to offsetting the travel, expenses and having to suffer the boorish language and behavior of hardcore fans who use the games as an excuse to act like asses.
Not going to lie to you. If somebody sends me video of a baseball game, it has to be something like the outfield stands collapsing onto the field, or an SI swimsuit model streaking naked from right field to third base, before I will watch it. Circus catches? Grand slams? Close plays at the plate? Who cares? I’ll see them on the 11 o'clock news anyway, if I don't skip sports altogether -- since it comes on after weather, and I can just get in a recorded "Blacklist" before falling asleep.
Is having the entire world walking around with video cameras in their pockets a good thing? Perhaps not if you are sunbathing topless at the beach or a cop shooting an innocent man in the back in North Charleston, S.C. But increasingly, cell phone video is showing up on the news. Most of the compelling footage of the gas line explosions that flattened a few buildings in New York recently came from cell phones.
Still, does having a camera give you the right to shoot "licensed content" such a movies or live performances that otherwise you would have to pay to see? Does shooting footage of someone having a "bad moment" in a public (or private) place violate any sort of right to privacy? (Although the whole notion of privacy seems to have gone away in the digital age.) What about the growing use of GoPro-type devices: Are they any different from phone cameras under the law?
It has never been truer that "the whole world is watching" -- but should there be limits? One limit I have is never to watch video shot at an MLB game.