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bnpodcastimageitunesFIX-1024x1024As you may have noticed earlier in the week, the Bleacher Nation Podcast abruptly disappeared from the iTunes store. Given that iTunes is the way by which 95% of listeners receive their BN Podcast, for all intents and purposes, the BN Podcast is currently gone. (Though you can still access its feed here.)

What happened?

Well, I received a generic email on Tuesday from Apple stating that the podcast had been removed from the iTunes store with a cover-all link explaining dozens of possible, mostly technical, reasons why. In other words, there was no real explanation at all.

Thankfully (for me, at least), a number of other legitimate baseball-related podcasts were taken down, so we could collectively figure out that it apparently originated with a request from MLB/MLBAM to address certain podcasts in iTunes.

Once again, I could only guess as to the reason, since there has been no notice or explanation whatsoever, but I think this was, at bottom, my own fault. The image I used at iTunes included a small Cubs logo, which is something MLBAM is totally within its rights to protect. To be clear, using the logo was not an intentional trademark/copyright infringement – I simply wanted to use a picture of my headphones and microphone, and it just so happens that my headphones have a Cubs logo on them (that now blue dot in the picture). A clear mistake on my part, but a totally honest one.

The description of the podcast also included “Chicago Cubs,” but that’s because, well, it’s a podcast about the Chicago Cubs. Kind of hard to describe it any other way. I don’t really think there was any risk of confusion in the market that this was an “official” Cubs podcast, but I updated the name and description to make it very clear.

In truth, I have absolutely no problem with MLBAM enforcing its rights, and I was clearly in the (accidental) wrong here. I could debate whether they and/or Apple went too far in having podcasts taken down for merely having the name of the team in the title of the podcast, but I don’t really have much room for that, given that I was clearly wrong about the logo issue.

The problem I do have, however, is the scorched earth approach to enforcing the trademark/copyright issue, whether it came from MLB/MLBAM or Apple. Had I received any kind of notice whatsoever – “Hey, man, your podcast image has a Cubs logo in it, and that’s a no-no – also, could you indicate that it’s not officially connected to the Cubs? Thanks!” – I would have immediately complied. I’m not looking to step on anyone’s intellectual property here, and I don’t want anyone thinking that the Bleacher Nation Podcast (or the site, itself) is affiliated with MLB in any way.

Having iTunes remove the podcasts implicated here with no notice or explanation whatsoever was a mistake. Give fan bloggers/podcasters a chance to do the right thing, and you’ll find that 99.9% of the time, they’ll do it with a smile – after all, we do this because we love baseball, and love promoting that product. Not only would MLB/MLBAM advance its goal of compliance, but it would also engender goodwill among the very people who work hard to promote its business at no cost to MLB.

I think, if you put them on the spot, both MLB and Apple would agree with me, that this is not the way to handle the situation. And, indeed, in a statement, MLBAM essentially said that this was just a mistake by Apple, and that MLBAM had merely requested that Apple remove any infringing artwork and/or podcast descriptions. Because of the public pressure to restore the podcasts to iTunes, MLBAM sent this message to iTunes:

As we have done in the past, yesterday we notified Apple about certain podcasts on the iTunes Store whose titles and/or thumbnails include infringing uses of trademarks of Major League Baseball and certain Clubs. And, as we have done in the past, we asked Apple to have these trademarks removed from the podcast titles and thumbnails. Although we did not ask for or seek to have any podcast removed from the Store, it has come to our attention that Apple removed them. Given our many years of experience in notifying Apple about trademark issues on the Store, we trust that removing the podcasts was an oversight, and ask that you please look into this matter as soon as possible.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Aaron Gleeman, a writer at NBC’s Hardball Talk, had his very popular Gleeman and the Geek podcast returned to the iTunes store the same day that this story broke, which is great for them. Being that his was the most visible of the affected podcasts, I can understand why Apple/MLB would be quick to act on his, lest it stir up more controversy.

But where does that leave the rest of us?

As of today, three days later, the BN Podcast is still not available in the iTunes store, despite making all appropriate changes (changes, you’ll note, that no one at Apple or MLB let me know I needed to make – I had to go message board digging across the web to find a podcasting insider who looked into what need to be changed … that’s a bit insane, isn’t it?). It’s a bit disheartening to think that Apple/MLB acted quickly on the Gleeman and the Geek podcast because of the PR black eye they were getting, and haven’t done the same for all affected podcasts who’ve also corrected any issues (like ours).

Hopefully that will soon be rectified. I’ve contacted Apple to see if they can take care of it on their end, but, several days later, I am still awaiting a reply. Now that this is no longer a “story” (hell, it made Keith Olbermann’s Worst Persons thing earlier in the week), I’m a bit concerned that there will be no motivation on the part of MLBAM or Apple to actually dig in an fix this.

  • bbmoney

    While within their rights…yeah…disappointing and short sighted approach by the MLBAM here. They should be trying to attract as many fans as possible, especially you’d think younger fans. Just removing podcasts and similar items without giving people a chance to correct possible issues seems like the wrong approach.

    • aa.

      This is what really gets me. If it weren’t for this site and the associated podcast, I wouldn’t have watched nearly as many Cubs games, on TV or in person. As baseball fans are skewing older, I can only imagine that it is the same for other younger fans.

    • Funn Dave

      Yeah. It’s really fucking stupid. They want people reading their mlb.com & club websites, but it’s very short-sighted and will mean fewer fans overall.

  • Fishin Phil

    I think you should sue the rooftop owners, I’m sure they are at the bottom of this somehow.

    Now, where the hell did I put my tinfoil hat??

  • Tim

    As with most IT, redundancy is always key. Think about having your podcast hosted at http://www.stitcher.com/ as well as iTunes.

  • Edwin

    Brett,

    Did you check out Wendy’s article on Fangraphs?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I did.

  • http://www.twitter.com/justinjabs @justinjabs

    This reminds me of when MLBAM shut down my first favorite podcast some years ago, CubsCast, for using not only the name but the ‘colors associated with Major League Baseball or its clubs.’

    http://www.cubscast.com/letter/

    I hope you guys stick on the air somehow. Obviously you know more about your traffic than I do, but I never listened to the BN Podcast on iTunes. I’m sure if you guys continued to post links on the website, there would still be listeners (myself included).

    • aa.

      Agreed. Or we could all dump all iPhones and get Droids.

      • mjhurdle

        +1

        only apple product worth buying is the iPad imho.

        • Head and Heart

          I bought a macbook pro about 5 years ago now. Still use it. Runs just as good as the day I got it. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a PC. I didn’t mind the iphone for what I need it for but I do enjoy my galaxy more than I thought I would when I made the switch.

          • Noah_I

            Yeah, after having two PCs crap out on me in college and grad school less than 4 years after purchase, I got a MacBook Pro in late 2007 that is just now having issues that will eventually be unfixable without replacing the mother board, but it’s still wholly functional.

            I’d say if you’re someone who likes replacing your hardware every 3 years (and lots of people do, and for good reason) get a PC and avoid the additional cost of buying an Apple. If you want a computer you may be able to keep for 6-7 years with minimal work, get an Apple.

            • mjhurdle

              i have a 10 year old Dell and a couple 5-6 year old Lenovo laptops running around my house still working fine.

              My complaint with Apple is not the quality per se. I just feel that (aside from graphical design which often times is much better on a Mac) if you utilize your computer for more than just web surfing, email, and the occasional document editing, a pc is more robust and useful. And if you only use your computer for lighter tasks, i don’t see the extra cost of a Mac to be justifiable in today’s market.
              But thats just my opinion. it is obviously very subjective to personal tastes.

    • Funn Dave

      Wow. I used to listen to CubsCast, but I kind of forgot about it. I didn’t realize that got shut down. F that.

  • aa.

    #FreeBleacherNation

  • BT

    Thanks Obama.

    • Edwin

      I laughed.

  • http://www.rotochamp.com/baseball/TeamPage.aspx?Team=CHC RotoChamp

    Forcing you to take down the podcast is like telling fans not to wear a Cubs jersey to the game. It’s such an anti-fan stance to take and makes one wonder if the people running MLB have a clue.

    • Noah_I

      Different from a legal perspective, considering you’ve purchased the jersey from an MLB licensed distributor (or from someone who did the same). Either way, though, terrible PR from MLB and Apple, and the wrong decision on any sort of “let’s stop and think about this for a second” standpoint.

  • waffle

    as if this MLB doesn’t have enough problems attracting/retaining fans. This should help!

  • jcwillia1

    It’s one lawyer at MLB writing one email or filling out a form with Apple where one person at Apple says “oh shit” and then pulls down a ton of podcasts whether it was justified or not – the requests for reinstatement will be prioritized at the bottom of said person’s to-do list which means you might get added back by say, September.

    Expecting them to reach out one to one with informative questions – that’s just not how corporate America works.

  • cubs2003

    It’s like MLB is actively trying to alienate it’s dwindling fan base. They seriously couldn’t spare a couple people for a few days to go through these on a case by case basis and let the podcaster know what they did wrong? Same thing with Apple. They’ll just do whatever MLB asks of them without any meaningful message to content producers or customers? Awesome. :-/

  • J

    Brett, don’t be so certain you were in the wrong (at least as to the use of the team name in the description). At this point, no one has told you that the description was improper. Maybe you can issue a (reverse?) cease and desist letter, demanding MLB/Apple explain the basis for the (continued) removal.

  • Edwin

    The headphone looks like a blue eyeball now.

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