Internet legal experts are closely watching a case being heard today in New York appeals court that involves the right to broadcast up-to-the-minute National Basketball League scores over a pager network.
Motorola and Sports Team Analysis & Tracking System--STATS--are appealing a federal court ruling July that barred Motorola from beaming scores to a network of pager customer. STATS supplied the scores to Motorola.
The NBA sued STATS and Motorola, saying that the beaming of game scores is tantamount to rebroadcasting a basketball game, a right for which television and radio networks pay dearly.
The NBA later sued America Online for the same thing--putting up-to-the-minute scores online. AOL had also sued the NBA, hoping that its case would have a different outcome from Motorola's. The cases are being heard separately.
Attorneys have characterized both cases as key First Amendment tests and believe that they eventually could end up setting precedents on what is legally usable on the Internet. Media outlets, including the New York Times, have filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the defendants.
Jeff Neuburger, a partner with Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner, said his firm is paying close attention to the case.
"It's another example of how new technologies raise all kinds of new definitional questions," he said. "It's a question of whether online transmission of sports information is news reporting or if it's another way of delivering a rendering of the sport."
The Motorola case is being heard by a three-judge panel of the Second U.S. Circuit court of Appeals in Manhattan.
"We're expecting that the judge will side with our original position and that we'll reverse the trial court decision," said Bob Meyerhoff, vice president at STATS. We're very confident about it."