MLB: Sling Box Is "Illegal"

Major League Baseball has an interesting concept of the definition of the word, “illegal.” When we hear that word, we take it to mean, “against the law.” For example: driving 150 mph in a school zone while smoking crack and evading your taxes is “illegal.”

MLB says watching programming you pay for in a place other than your home is “illegal.” From CNET:

“Of course, what they are doing is not legal,” said Mellis [General Councel for MLB Advanced Media] . “We and other leagues have formed a group to study the issue and plan our response. A lot depends on ongoing discussions. Plus, there’s no guarantee that Slingbox will be around next year. It’s a start-up.”

In an interview with CNET, Sling Media CEO Blake Krikorian said it was “a ridiculous statement” to say the Slingbox is illegal. Krikorian also questioned whether MLB has joined with other professional sports leagues to discuss the legal implications of the Slingbox. “Our relationships with the leagues, including MLB as I understand it, are very strong,” he said.

MLB claims its not the “place-shifting” thats “illegal” but the “transmission-shifting.” As in, it’s illegal to transmit television over the internet. It’s a shakey position, especially since Slingbox isn’t designed to compete with out-of-market packages like MLB.TV. Why should someone who only wants to watch their home team pay for an out-of-market package? Silly.

Anyhow, Slingbox fans can relax just a little, CNET reports that legal experts are saying there’s nothing illegal about it. —MEGHANN MARCO

MLB aims brushback pitch at Slingbox
[CNET] (Thanks, Jeremy!)
(Photo: dizzy-eyed)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dbeahn says:

    No no no – to anyone in sports or media, “Illegal” is defined as “Anything we don’t like and/or can’t charge extra for.”

  2. Kornkob says:

    Speeling: it’s illegal to transmit teleivsion over the internet

    Yet another industry struggling to protect its business model from new technologies. I wish these people would just learn to move forward instead of entrenching.

  3. CRSpartan01 says:

    Awesome. Another reason to not watch the MLB.

  4. gwong says:

    Ahh, MLB – they just love to wring as much money out of their product as possible. Remember when they paid the players’ association to use their names and statistics and then went after fantasy baseball providers for infringing on the players’ persona? Thankfully, the judge threw out the suit.

  5. forumreader says:

    MLB and their stupid blackout rules on MLB.TV can bite me — I’ll sling local games over a box all I want.

  6. ducksauce says:

    MLB is one of the greediest corporations on the planet, make no mistake. I pay for because I live out of market and don’t have a tv, but I still only get to watch about half the games because often when a game is played 1000 miles away and is not on any tv station I am still considered within the market. Ideally, MLB would have everyone pay twice for everything.

    They also disgustingly recharge your credit card without telling you even if you only purchase one month and deselect auto-renew. That seems more illegal than using slingbox.

  7. xkaluv says:

    They say… “Plus, there’s no guarantee that Slingbox will be around next year. It’s a start-up.”

    You keep putting them on the news by trying to sue them and they will be a HUGE COMPANY!!! Keep it up MLB!!!

    I love the slingbox and everything it stands for!

  8. Hawkeye1659 says:

    I’ve had my Slingbox over 2 years now and love it. I pay Comcast $160 per month for my receivers, channels, and dvrs. I see no reason why I shouldn’t be able to watch a White Sox game from that tuner I’m PAYING FOR when I am sitting in a hotel room or using an internet hotspot. This is pure garbage. Especially since even if i WANTED to pay to watch that same Sox game on MLB TV, they wouldn’t even let me due to BS blackout restrictions. Scammers pure and simple.

  9. Scott says:

    Other leagues? The NHL just signed a deal with Sling Media to distribute some of their content.

  10. Bay State Darren says:

    “there’s no guarantee that Slingbox will be around next year. It’s a start-up.”
    They should’ve been saying this about the Nats, Rays, and Marlins for the past decade.

  11. UnStatusTheQuo says:

    Just another reason why I don’t support pro sports anymore.

  12. rmz says:

    Hasn’t the MLB tried to imply that they don’t want you to even describe the events of a game without express written consent? Much less rebroadcasting it or recording it.

    Squeeze that stone a little more, MLB.

  13. MLB: steroids good, technology bad.

  14. anatak says:

    Well crap! Where’s John Kerry when they need him?

    And just to summarize:

    Watching MLB games that you’ve paid for across slingmedia = illegal

    MLB athletes using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to tarnish the sport = no problem

  15. WV.Hillbilly says:

    Any rebroadcast, reproduction, or other use of the pictures and accounts of this game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly prohibited.

  16. The Walking Eye says:

    @rmz: Happened to me. I took pictures of a trip to Milwaukee and then made three or four quicktime slideshows and put them up on YouTube. MLB came in and reported copyright infringement to YouTube and I was forced to remove them. They claimed copyright on pictures I took with my own camera during a game. I never received a reply from the corporate office of MLB on the matter.

    &nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp I wrote a blog about it, but I’m not a whore and Deadspin ran the story in Leftovers awhile back, and I think I deleted the movies from where I had them for the blog.

    To Acid Reign: To make an indent, use &.nbsp (w/o the . between & and n). It’s working in the preview, hopefully it does so in the post.

  17. HearsMusic says:

    For example: driving 150 mph in a school zone while smoking crack and evading your taxes is “illegal.”

    You guys almost owed me a new monitor from orange soda damage. Consumerist, your source for snarky humor!

  18. Hawk07 says:

    In light of recent comments on past articles and to keep pace with some people’s sentiments here, I feel very offended by the driving at 150mph in a school zone joke in light of the VTech tragedy.

  19. WV.Hillbilly says:

    @The Walking Eye:
    The NBA and many college teams have this exact policy regarding photographs.
    They claim copyright for photos taken in their arenas/stadiums.

  20. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    This is another example of corporations killing innovation and technology, all in the name of protecting their “intellectual property”. What a joke. It’s baseball!

  21. junkmail says:

    What the MLB fails to realize is that you’re not technically “broadcasting”, you’re watching your own cable, on your own TV. Only one user can login to the slingbox at a time, so it’s not like you’re just putting it out there for anyone to watch. If your home TV can legally receive the MLB broadcast, what right does MLB have to tell you where you sit while you watch your OWN TV??? Using the Slingbox is NO different than plugging in another TV in the bedroom or something. It’s just another extension.

  22. royal72 says:

    (m)ajor (l)ibel (b)ullshit

  23. MeOhMy says:

    I wonder which is worse…

    MLB claiming slingbox is “illegal,” or Jamie Kellner claiming that skipping commercials is both theft and breach of contract…

    [Skipping commercials is] theft. Your contract with the
    network when you get the show is you’re going to watch the
    spots. Otherwise you couldn’t get the show on an ad-supported
    basis. Any time you skip a commercial or watch the button you’re
    actually stealing the programming.

    Bunch of morons.

  24. mbrutsch says:

    I have to agree with MLB. It’s their broadcast; they can set whatever terms they’d like. The proper market response would be to stop using their product, or perhaps create your own product and, oh, compete. Sure, their position is stupid, and sure, it’s short-sighted. But that doesn’t make it any less “theirs”. If their product is *so* compelling that you can’t live without it, and can’t replace it with something else, then you’ve essentially made their case that it’s worth the money. Don’t like it? Don’t steal it; ignore it. That’s the true Kapitalist Way.

  25. mewyn dyner says:

    Well, they say the “transmission-shifting” is a rebroadcast… um… Sling Boxes are a point-to-point connection, not at all a broadcast. It’s kind of like putting another TV on your receiver with a really long set of cables, or a directional RF transmitter. Frankly, I see even Ol’ Gil being able to tell MLB to shoo.

  26. MeOhMy says:


    It’s their broadcast; they can set whatever terms they’d like.

    Once that broadcast leaves your transmitter, you have no control over how it can be used. There’s no theft here – unencrypted radio signals broadcast into my private property are mine to do with as I please, likewise encrypted radio signals that I may lawfully decrypt. If you don’t want someone to watch baseball, stop broadcasting it.

    Now if someone is breaking the Sling license agreement or violating MLB’s copyright (allowing 3rd parties watch, playing it for a public audience, etc.) that’s a different story.

    But using a Slingbox in one location to watch in private the broadcast signals that you have lawfully received even if they are in another location? Give me a break.

    Hey baseball: I think it’s time we pull the plug on you. I think MLB hates its audience almost as much as the RIAA does.

  27. Gopher bond says:

    @WV.Hillbilly: “Any rebroadcast, reproduction, or other use of the pictures and accounts of this game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball is strictly prohibited.”

    I tried to rebroadcast with implied oral consent but I got busted.

  28. strathmeyer says:

    Next thing you’re going to tell me it’s illegal to make copies of my DVDs unless their creator authorizes it.

  29. scottso says:

    This is why I didn’t vote to include Consumerist as a news source in Google, as nitpicky as this may sound. The headline has “illegal” in quotes, but that word is never uttered in the quote from MLB. So why not put the actual words mentioned in quotes, “not legal”? Poetic license?

  30. Antediluvian says:

    @Troy F.:
    re: skipping ads = theft
    no one ever answers the question:
    Is it theft if I go pee while the ad is on?

    Stupid execs.

  31. junkmail says:

    Seriously? So what does “illegal” mean to you?

  32. scottso says:

    @junkmail: When something is in quotation marks, I generally interpret that to be a… quote from a source. The source didn’t say “illegal.” No newspaper or major news source edit a quote to make a better headline. They would remove the quotation marks or … simply quote the source correctly.

    Yeah, it’s a nitpick – but it’s also a hallmark of a true news source. For now, Consumerist is just a blog.

  33. MeOhMy says:

    @Antediluvian: Don’t worry, my friend – he covered that, too:

    I guess there’s a certain amount of tolerance for going to the
    bathroom. But if you formalize it and you create a device that skips certain second increments, you’ve got that only for one reason, unless you go to the bathroom for 30 seconds. They’ve done that just to make it easy for someone to skip a commercial.

    So make sure you keep your potty breaks under 30 seconds, you no-good contract-breaking thief, you.

  34. Gopher bond says:

    @scottso: it’s a quote from the article “At a recent sports law symposium at Fordham University, The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. reported that MLBAM’s General Counsel Michael Mellis called the popular set-top box’s place-shifting feature illegal. “

    Perhaps single quotation marks would have floated your boat as it wasn’t a direct quote attributed to a person, but a paraphrased quote. Still, it’s hard to tell whether Consumerist was quoting the article or the exec. Furthermore, double quotation are often used to set off irony. Maybe Consumerist was trying to show irony (of what? I dunno, could by a myriad of things concerning the MLB).

    But if you think that “real” news doesn’t produce misleading headlines, search “misleading headlines” and see who pops up.

  35. FLConsumer says:

    Of course, if you really want to give MLB the true FU, just watch their games via P2P TV networks. Then you’re truly doing what they’re fearing most, for some strange reason. They should be happy that people ARE watching and their teams are getting extra exposure, at no cost to them.

  36. AcidReign says:

    @The Walking Eye: Thanks! Don’t know how I missed that comment two weeks ago…

    &nbsp We’ll see if it works.

  37. AcidReign says:

    &nbsp &nbsp This is better. Thank you!