Law Center - POSTED: 2011/08/25 15:53
The association that oversees Wisconsin high school sports can limit who streams its games live on the Internet even though most of its member schools are funded by taxpayers, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. The decision could have First Amendment implications for media outlets nationwide.
The Chicago appeals court said the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association has the right to enter into exclusive contracts for live streaming of its sporting events, and that the First Amendment doesn't entitle other media outlets to claim the same broadcasting rights without paying for them.
The case began in 2008, when the sports association sued The Post-Crescent, an Appleton newspaper, for streaming live coverage of its high school football playoff games. Fans in many states rely on community newspapers for news about high school teams, and the newspapers say they need easy, unencumbered access to sporting events to provide that coverage. But the Wisconsin association said it couldn't survive without being able to raise money by signing exclusive contracts with a single video-production company for streaming its tournaments.
After a U.S. District judge sided with the association last year, an appeal was filed by the newspaper's owner, Gannett Co., and the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.
The appeals court ruled that an exclusive contract allowing one entity to broadcast an event doesn't amount to a gag order on other media outlets. It noted that the sports association still allowed other reporters to cover the games, interview players and coaches, and air up to two minutes of live video coverage of any game. Media outlets were only restricted from broadcasting entire games live.