On Wisconsin!

In a timely decision, given the upcoming football season, the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th circuit this week handed a rather significant victory to the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. The court ruled that the WIAA can restrict news outlets from streaming high school games on their Web sites, thereby giving the WIAA the power to restrict and license the right to stream the events. And that makes the games a source of revenue that they would not have been had the news outlets had their way. As happens so many times, the case came down to a question of who framed the facts the right way. The news outlets argued that the WIAA, a state agency, was placing restrictions on their ability to broadcast news based on the content of that information. In their view, this violated the First Amendment. But the WIAA argued that it was acting in a proprietary role, not a regulatory role. And it argued that the First Amendment does not grant a right to broadcast an entire event. The Appeals Court went with WIAA’s argument. This decision could have an impact in lots of places where high school football is a big deal (think Friday Night Lights). I suspect that WIAA like organizations in those places are cheering this decision as much as a completed touchdown pass.