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Southeastern Conference To Fans: Shut Up And Watch

If it's Wednesday, it must be time for another exhibit of Establishment cluelessness about digital technology. Today's villain: the Southeastern Conference, which is indulging in a particularly absurd bout of control-freakery over what fans in the stands might do with their smartphones.

Yes, fans.

The St. Petersburg Times' Michael Kruse explained the mess in a good piece on Sunday that spotlighting the offending language in the SEC's revised media policy:

Ticketed fans can't "produce or disseminate (or aid in producing or disseminating) any material or information about the Event, including, but not limited to, any account, description, picture, video, audio, reproduction or other information concerning the Event. ..."

Even by the dismal standards of sports leagues' past conduct towards paying fans, home viewers and credentialed reporters, those rules are downright kooky. They were met with nearly instant, thoroughly deserved ridicule--see Deadspin's sarcastic take on the situation. Yesterday, the SEC backed down. Sort of.

As Kruse noted in a follow-up piece, the conference will let fans text or Twitter but still doesn't want them shooting video clips of a game:

Here, then, is the new, softened language: "Personal messages and updates of scores or other brief descriptions of the competition throughout the Event are acceptable." Also: "Absent the prior written permission of the Southeastern Conference, game action videos of the Event may not be taken ..."

Good luck with that, SEC. As I've noted before, just about every phone these days includes a camera, and most cameraphones can record video too. Many of those phones can easily upload video to the Internet as well. And there is nothing that a sports league can do about that--if the thugs in Tehran haven't been able to stop people in the streets from uploading videos, the security at a football game certainly won't be able to prevent 90,000 people in the stands from recording and uploading what they want.

The SEC's revised policy, however, will work quite well to advertise how poorly this conference understands gadgets and the Internets in general. And if, like my wife and I, you went to a non-SEC college, it also provides yet another reason to root against the SEC's schools.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  August 19, 2009; 12:56 PM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
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Now, let's not be TOO hard on the SEC schools' command of technology -- Auburn announced the other day they'd gotten a really good deal on a used PDP-10. Should just about double their data-processing capabilities...

Realistically, this story also goes a long way to solidify my views about the people who run athletic programs on LOTS of campuses...

Posted by: mjohnston1 | August 19, 2009 1:48 PM | Report abuse

A PDP-10? Really? Wonder if I could write a BASIC interpreter for the Altair on that.

More seriously, what's the issue here? They have exclusive deals with ESPN and CBS to provide video, so they have to protect their copyright. If they allowed video to get out, CBS & ESPN could, conceivably, sue. This is less the idiocy of the SEC than of US law. If you really pressed the SEC, you'd probably find that not even their lawyers really expect to stop camera videos if they aren't used to make cash.

You know, I've taken a SLR with a 200mm lens (largest I had then) into a Redskins game. If I'm still allowed to do that at football games (of any conference), you won't find me complaining too much. ;^)

Posted by: WorstSeat | August 19, 2009 9:47 PM | Report abuse

"The SEC's revised policy, however, will work quite well to advertise how poorly this conference understands gadgets and the Internets in general. And if, like my wife and I, you went to a non-SEC college, it also provides yet another reason to root against the SEC's schools."

Really, Rob? Was that cheap and uninformed shot at all SEC institutions and grads really necessary?

Did you know that the nation's first bachelor's degree program in wireless engineering was offered at Auburn University - an SEC school? And it was started with a gift from Sam Ginn, one of the early pioneers in cellular technology.

Did you know that tons of Auburn aerospace engineering grads are recruited each year by NASA to work at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama and other NASA centers around the country?

Did you know that the University of Florida - an SEC school - is one of the leading research centers for reconfigurable computing - a new technology that could vastly improve computer processing speeds?

Did you know that Mississippi State - an SEC school - has an advanced computer simulation research center and that a good number of MSU engineering grads work on advanced aircraft survivability and foreign technology exploitation simulations at the Defense Intelligence Agency?

And, on a broader level, do you really think you would find less smartphones per capita, less Facebook and Twitter usage, or less Internet usage and sophistication by students, faculty, and staff at SEC schools like Vanderbilt or Georgia than you would at ACC, Big 10, Big 12, or even Big East schools?

I don't think the SEC's policy makes a whole lot of sense either but that doesn't give you a license to perpetuate regional stereotypes and try to categorize SEC schools as a collection of country bumpkins.

Let's get down to the real issue. You must be tired of losing to SEC schools every year.

Posted by: abtigers | August 20, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

C'mon guys. It is the SOUTHEASTERN Conference. I went to Vandy before escaping to the real world. Old guys who run things there probably still think indoor plumbing is the latest technology! And as for saying dumb things, just watch C-Span.

Posted by: jeh1 | August 20, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Best wishes to SEC.
Commented by: hd

Posted by: softwaresoda168 | August 24, 2009 5:00 AM | Report abuse

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