Once it became clear that New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle had been killed in yesterday's tragic airplane crash in New York, news organizations began scrambling for images of Lidle. They also scrambled for video of Lidle pitching – or would have, had they not known that it is nearly impossible to use such video without paying a significant sum to Major League Baseball.
"It is extremely frustrating to not have access to these materials," said CBSNews.com Editorial Director Dick Meyer, who remembers consistently being told as an "Evening News" producer that it is too expensive to use baseball footage in news stories.
"I think it's outrageous that Major League Baseball and other professional sports so aggressively protect their licensed material when players and people connected to baseball are in the news," he continued. "I thought it was the national pastime, not the copyright protection coalition."
Added Meyer: "I cannot see how withholding short clips of people playing baseball who are in the news is good citizenship or serves any public good other than the financial interests of some owners."
A representative from Major League Baseball did not return a call for comment.
CBS attorney Jonathan Sternberg said he didn't think there was "necessarily" a fair use claim to be made in a case like this. "If [Lidle] had been on the mound and been hit by a line drive and killed on the spot, that might have been fair use," he said.
"There are some entities out there that keep a very close control over the rights that they have to footage, and the NFL is one, Major League Baseball is another, the Oscars are another, the Olympics are another," continued Sternberg. "And these people are very diligent in policing the use of their footage by other parties. Here, based on experience, we are being told that if we don't have a valid fair use argument, the expense is not going to justify the benefit."