The Victoria Park Racing and Recreation Grounds was a popular racecourse in Sydney, Australia in the 1930s. Built in an open fairground, the owners erected a fence around the track to ensure that only ticket buyers could watch the action or place bets on the races. In response, a neighbour built a tower that was used by an Australian broadcaster to peer over the fence and broadcast descriptions of the races on its radio stations. Victoria Park Racing sued both the neighbour and the broadcaster on nuisance and property rights grounds. The Australian High Court dismissed the suit in 1937, but the case marked the arrival of an ongoing fight over the rights of sports leagues and teams to control coverage of their events that continues to this day.
Seventy years later, the battle has shifted to the Internet. My weekly Law Bytes column (Toronto Star version, homepage version) focuses on how in recent months, a growing number of leagues and sports associations have sought to assert control over athlete blogging, posting photographs and video online, and even the use of player statistics.