MLB Fan Podcasts Removed From iTunes To Return Shortly

Over the last couple of days there’s been a furor in the podcasting community related to the removal of some fan-produced baseball shows being unceremoniously removed. The podcasts disappeared completely from iTunes without warning, leading some to believe the MLB had requested this and Apple had complied without question.

Specifically, these were podcasts with content produced by fans, but many of which utilized MLB brand marks (logos) or team names in their titles. Both of those, of course, are copyright the MLB — which led some folks to believe that this was a hardcore crackdown on how those were being used by the community.

I’ve done a little looking into the situation and some sources on both sides of this thing have clarified what’s going on. The long and short of it is that there was an error made and that the podcasts should return to iTunes over the next few days.

In fact, some of them have already begun to come back to the iTunes store.

Essentially, this comes down to the sheer size of the request. The MLB sent a notice to Apple with a couple dozen podcasts on it, noting that they were in violation of their trademark. What happened next was an accident.

First, some background, when Apple receives a takedown request for copyright in an app or song or what have you, it’s standard procedure is to ‘hide’ that app, effectively removing it from sale. The MLB on the other hand, has a policy of notifying people using its marks that they’ll need to make some changes to the names and continuing to communicate back and forth until the changes are made.

Basically ‘hey, you’re using this thing, please change it’ and if they do all is well. If they don’t they keep at it until that happens.

A letter published by NBC’s Hardball blog came from inside the MLB and it expresses confusion over how Apple was handling the matter.

So, I don’t know minute by minute how this situation went down but I’d guess it went something like this:

  1. The MLB saves up a bunch of these notices and submits them to Apple all at once, expecting to be connected to the podcasters to start a dialog.
  2. Apple sees a notice come in from the MLB, a legit organization, with a bunch of flags on it and takes action ASAP, which is understandable as they could likely be held liable if they didn’t take action right away, opening them up to legal action.
  3. Apple does its normal ‘remove it from sale’ thing.
  4. The MLB starts getting outraged calls from podcasters and journos and starts trying to figure out what’s going on.

From what I understand, this is basically a mis-match between expected and actual procedures of the two organizations. I’d expect to see the podcasts begin to return to the iTunes store soon, but they’ll still be on the hook for changing their names or logos to not infringe on MLB trademarks — if they had in the first place.

We’ve reached out to Apple and the MLB for confirmation.

Image Credit: Sam Howzit