SEC Figures It All Out: You Don’t Own Your Ticket

After first placing mammoth, arcane restrictions on digital media and other accounts of their football games last week, the SEC announced a few days ago that they were “reviewing” policies. Good news, to be sure, but strictly dependent on a subsequent overhaul of practices, otherwise the review’s just empty words.

Tennessee Fans
(If those pompoms get Internet service then the SEC’s going to be mighty concerned, boys, mighty concerned indeed.)

Well, the final - FINAL, people! - fan policy has just been released by the SEC, and as you can imagine, it’s full of great news and sorry for that misunderstanding earlier, their lawyers had a momentary spasm of unbelievable prickishness, is all.

Ohhh wait, just kidding. You’re strictly under their thumb and you’ll like it.

From SEC SPORTS, the policy in question (pops directly to .pdf file):

The Ticket is a personal license and may not be re-transferred or assigned. The license granted to Bearer shall automatically terminate if any term or condition for use of the Ticket is breached. The unauthorized use of the Ticket subjects the Bearer to ejection from the Event and prosecution for criminal trespass.

A Ticket may not be used for advertising, promotion (including contests or sweepstakes), or other trade or commercial purposes without the express written consent of the SEC or its member institution.

Bearer agrees that the Ticket constitutes nothing more than a revocable license to enter the Event and occupy the seat or location covered by the Ticket; that it is not a license with respect to any other event; and that it contains no guarantee or warranty of any kind. This right to enter and occupy a seat or location is expressly conditioned upon Bearer’s good behavior while on the premises of the Event, as otherwise set forth herein. Tickets reported as lost or stolen may not be honored and may not be replaced, and the price may not be refunded.

This is not all completely out of the ordinary, of course. Of course the ticket’s not a guarantee of anything and it doesn’t grant you a seat at a different event. And of course you have to behave yourself in the stadium.

But the fact that it’s not transferrable ought to give you pause - that language essentially says that if I can’t make it to the game, my seat must stay empty, otherwise I risk losing the ticket. That’s pretty hard to enforce, of course, but right off the bat you’re breaking rules. And if the ticket’s lost? You, sir or madam, are utterly S.O.L. and perhaps if you loved the SEC the way you ought to then this never would have been an issue in the first place. Chiggity check yourself before you wreck yourself. Err, wreck your seat license. Whatever.

Also, should you be using the ticket even though you didn’t buy it - in other words, the dreaded “unauthorized usage” - you’re still subject to all rules and regulations. That’s not evil, that’s just the SEC making sure there’s no Unbelievable S–thead Loophole where if you have someone else’s seat, you can do whatever you want and they’re the ones who get in trouble. That’s not happening. Just so you know.

As far as social media goes, guess what: the deliberately vague threats are now etched into stone. To wit:

No Bearer may produce or disseminate in any form a “real-time” description or transmission of the Event (i) for commercial or business use, or (ii) in any manner that constitutes, or is intended to provide or is promoted or marketed as, a substitute for radio, television or video coverage of such Event. Personal messages and updates of scores or other brief descriptions of the competition throughout the Event are acceptable. If the SEC deems that a Bearer is producing a commercial or real-time description of the Event, the SEC reserves the right to pursue all available remedies against the Bearer.

Absent the prior written permission of the Southeastern Conference, game action videos of the Event may not be taken by Bearer. Photos of the Event may be taken by Bearer and distributed solely for personal use (and such photographs shall not be licensed, used, or sold commercially, or used for any commercial or business purpose).

Got it? So if you make a single penny with a blog and you post pictures from a game on it? Bad news bears, man. The tickets that never even belonged to you in the first place are gone, daddy, gone.

But perhaps the most shortsighted language is that which came before about talking about the game in a “manner that constitutes, or is intended to provide or is promoted or marketed as, a substitute for radio, television or video coverage of such Event.”

Guess what: that doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as something somebody can do with either a cell phone, blackberry, Netbook, whatever that counts as even a tolerable “replacement” for the coverage that major media provide. They’re popular as complements to the coverage, not as substitutes. For as much as people bitch and moan on blogs about the talking heads on ESPN calling the game, well, that means they’re watching. Bloggers, Twitter users, commenters, and everybody else online knows there’s no point in trying to (or even wanting to) compete with ESPN and its dozens of technical staff when it comes to covering a game. That’s not the point.

Proof? Find someone who promotes their liveblogs or tweets as substitutes for coverage. Find someone who calls a game on the radio from the stands and tells people they should listen to that online instead of the radio. Find anyone online who’s telling you to turn the game off. What the SEC are really worried about never happens.

But they do have the power to decide it’s happening anyway and revoke your seat for it. Congrats, SEC. You’ve made everything so much better.