Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Illinois Lottery: Have a Lawsuit!

The Illinois Lottery is feeling heat from the National Football League after using copyrighted materials in a promotion for a new game that features a trip to the Super Bowl as a prize.

I don’t blame the Lottery because really, why should the NFL even care. In fact, the Lottery probably didn't go far enough. Their ad agency should have scanned in a picture of Donovan McNabb and his mom, Photoshopped the soup spoons out and put in some lottery cards instead, and, presto, they’d have themselves a winning promotional campaign with none of those pesky endorsement fees to fuss with. Or they could have found an old tape of Kurt Warner or Phil Simms doing their post-Super Bowl spots for Disney and dubbed in the words “I’m going to Super Game XL. Thanks Governor Blagojevich’s Illinois State Lottery.” I don’t think that the quarterbacks’ agents would mind, theirs being such a philanthropic profession to begin with.

Wait a minute, Super Game XL? Apparently I’m being facetious in the preceding paragraph and Lottery officials are being a tad bit disingenuous when claiming ignorance to possible copyright infringements. As the SJ-R reported, Lottery ads used the term “Super Game” instead of “Super Bowl” in some print ads and drowned out the word “bowl” in some radio spots. Obviously they knew all was not fair game in their little ticket promotion. And if anyone there had been paying attention at all to the business side of sports in recent years, they’d realize that the suits are growing increasingly teenager-y about letting people use their stuff without asking first.

In 2000, the Illinois High School Association formed a limited liability company with the NCAA that has the power to assign rights for the use of the phrase “March Madness.” Last year, the Cubs were demanding a cut of the action from some of their Wrigleyville neighbors who were using their rooftops to peak over the ivied walls. WSCR, a Chicago-based sports talk radio station, is reduced to calling the Cubs and Sox the Northsiders and Southsiders in their promotions, presumably because that honor goes exclusively to the stations that paid for the right to broadcast their games. I won't even start on those litigious scoundrels over at the International Olympic Committee, except to say that your kid's preschool better think twice before holding a hamster Olympics.

It all sounds a bit silly to the common sports fan, but its serious business to those who want to squeeze every last cent out of their investment.

Most people can understand a team wanting to profit from the sale of their official merchandise – caps, sweatshirts and what not - but how many people would be willingly shell to out for this: 22-32-0-191

Those aren't winning lottery numbers as selected by your psychic friend. Those are Peyton Manning’s stats from last night’s victory over the Rams and there are some NFL executives who are of the opinion that they are the property of Peyton and the league. If those fantasy football geeks want to avail themselves of these numbers, the execs reason, then they better get out their credit cards.

The NFL is already raking in money because of the fantasy football craze. More people are watching more games which means the networks can charge more for advertising which means that the NFL can charge the networks more for the broadcasting rights. But you don't get to me the most successful sport's league in North America without shaking the loose change from your loyal fans.

The prevailing judicial opinion on this matter is that statistics aren’t intellectual property and are thus not eligible for copyright. If it is ever ruled to the contrary, then I plan to seek remittance from insurance companies every time they analyze Illinois traffic statistics, since my driving patterns, much like Marvin Harrison's pass patterns, are figured into those stats. Silly, I know. And of course they’d just raise my rates. You can’t beat the insurance companies.

Getting back to the Illinois Lottery, I think that most of their troubles can be traced to the fact that they are a sells-driven organization rather than one that is simply charged with preserving a budget, what state government-types are more instinctively given to do. They seem to lack the proper business acumen to operate in such an environment and that may be why they find themselves in precarious situations. Perhaps it would be best to outsource the whole operation to a private contractor.

Until some changes are made, might I suggest a special World Concatenation scratch-off to honor the Southsiders as they make their first championship appearance since 1959?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How about World Sequence?