Recreating Baseball Commentary
October 14, 2005 9:48 PM   Subscribe

How can I (legally) recreate the commentary of the last few moments of the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series?

I'm doing a documentary for my Master's Project. There is a possibility of getting funding and maybe even distributing. I would like to open the film with what sounds like the last minute or so of Game 4 of the series (unrelated video goes on top).

1) Is there somewhere I can get a transcript of the actual commentary or an audio/video clip, so I can write something comparable?

2) How differently do I need to write it to avoid infringment? (Is it enough enough to change a few words around if my voice actor sounds wildly different from any actual commentators?)
posted by ArsncHeart to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
Seems like this would fall under "fair use" you should check this link. What is it about the commentary that makes it so special (considering you're willing to rewrite it?) Why not use something else similar... just curious.
posted by AllesKlar at 10:59 PM on October 14, 2005

Are you familiar with Mogwai? They have a track with football commentary that is eerily blends into the background, is it the effect you are looking for ... ambience? germane to the documentary?
posted by AllesKlar at 11:01 PM on October 14, 2005

I would pay an attorney to find out whether this is fair use, if I were you. MLB asserts pretty broad IP ownership ("the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball or Major League Baseball Properties, Inc., as applicable, is the owner of all copyrights and other proprietary rights in any description, account, picture, video, audio or reproduction of the Postseason game including pre-game and post-game activities ('Game Information'). Not sure the call of the end of one of the most momentous World Series games of all time would even be considered an "excerpt."
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 4:42 AM on October 15, 2005

Also throwing about $20 at ebay would get you the DVD "Faith Rewarded," which I think includes the call (let me know if you need me to go check my copy)
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:00 AM on October 15, 2005

The easiest, no frills way?
Change it entirely. Think outside the box. Make it someone commenting on the game to someone else. Print a faux newspaper that appears on the screen with the relevant words.

If you have a narrator/Voice of God speak your own content - as long as it's just not a phrase or two different, you're fine. Yes, you could summarize/paraphrase. The exact wording/person's voice is what will get you in trouble.

It might be fair use, contact the Red Sox's main office. They'll have a public relations office no matter what - (617) 267-9440.
Call them and tell them you're making a documentary (You don't mention the subject here, they'll likely want to know.) You'll likely have to send them a treatment of your doc so they can see it's an agreeable subject. They may or may not have you sign a contract/release that may or may not involve money.

But start with their public relations office.
posted by filmgeek at 5:09 AM on October 15, 2005 has the audio for $3.95
posted by nimsey lou at 8:08 AM on October 15, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions so far, guys. Here's some more information: the subject of the doc is my own journey into exotic dancing. I was actually on stage dancing, in Boston, when the Sox won last year (competing for attention against the plasma TV on the wall next to the stage), and thought it would be a good way to immediately locate time and place.

So you can see why the Red Sox PR dept. might not want to give me permission, and why I'd like to have a back-up plan.
posted by ArsncHeart at 8:32 AM on October 15, 2005

I think there are two issues here: legal rights to the audio from the game and legal rights to the description of the game.

If you plan on using the actually audio from the game (either the radio or tv call) you definitely need permission. If you are going to recreate the audio (ie fake it), the audio is yours to use...sort of.

The other issue is that MBL (as well as other sports) have tried to protect even the description and data about the game. So even if you recreate it, you may be on tricky legal ground. I would either take to a IP attorney or try talking to MLB directly.

Alternatively, you probably could try a different approach to tying your dance performance to the game. For example, play a phone message from someone that called you from the game, wondering what you could be doing instead of watching the game. I think you would be safe with something like that.

Of course, INAL applies.
posted by sexymofo at 11:44 AM on October 15, 2005

Rather than getting permission from the MLB, why not try to get "fair use" out of Hollywood? To wit: the film "Fever Pitch", now out on DVD, contains both official MLB footage and their own filmed footage of Game 4 (they brought their own cameras to the game). You can cut out the Drew Barrymore/Jimmy Fallon dancing-on-the-field stuff if you want.
posted by Asparagirl at 2:20 PM on October 15, 2005

Do what Reagan did, and write your own play-by-play. Chances are few people will remember the actual words of the broadcast, they remember the game. (If it's just a few moments, I doubt that MLB would be concerned. They just don't want people infringing on their broadcast contract money.)

This way it will be easier to write just what you need to illustrate whatever it is, instead of editing around it.
posted by dhartung at 4:43 PM on October 15, 2005

Here's a funny blurb from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (PDF) about a fan who asked for "express written permission" to use an MLB recording for personal purposes—and succeeded!
posted by mbrubeck at 7:08 PM on October 15, 2005

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