Sports Symposium Investigates the Evolving Fan Experience

O n March 28, the Harvard Law School Committee on Sports and Entertainment Law hosted its annual Sports Symposium.  Sports industry leaders gathered at Wasserstein Hall to discuss the various legal challenges presented by the ever-changing experience of sports fans.  As always, CSEL put on a terrific event that drew a number of distinguished speakers, with the keynote address given by Ken Hershman, President of HBO Sports.  Notable panel participants included, among others, Len Komoroski, CEO of the Cleveland Cavaliers; Jon Oram, Partner at Proskauer Rose; Ed Weiss, General Counsel of the Red Sox and NESN; Brett Goodman, Senior Vice President of NBC Olympics and NBC Sports; Ed Durso, Executive Vice President of Administration at ESPN; and Mary Braza, Partner at Foley & Lardner.  The event’s moderators included Harvard Law Professor Peter Carfagna, Professor Michael McCann of the University of New Hampshire’s Sports and Entertainment Law Institute and SportsIllustrated.com, and Patrick Rishe of Sportsimpacts.

Symposium Co-Chairs Chris Davis ‘14 and John Geise ‘14 chose to focus on the numerous ways in which being a sports fan has changed in recent years.  In particular, the Symposium highlighted the impact of new technology on fans’ consumption of their favorite sports.  Panelists spoke about the struggle to establish ownership of newly-created media rights, confront pirates who try to steal their companies’ content for free, and monetize new technologies like mobile device streaming.  Representatives of up-and-coming providers of sports fan content, such as Lauren Fisher of SB Nation and Vox Media, added a different perspective on the ability of such platforms to increase team and league popularity, and on their rights to “fair use” of such content.  Finally, in his keynote address, HBO’s Hershman spoke about the importance of fan involvement to the success of his company’s business model.

The Symposium’s impressive lineup drew other attorneys, law students from across New England, and sports fans from the community to the all-day event.  Each panel concluded with an opportunity for audience members to ask questions, which led to intriguing conversations about the discrepancies between moral and legal obligations, censorship of live events, and more.  The debates continued as the panelists and audience members moved on to the reception at the law school pub, capping off a well-attended and highly successful event.

Kim Miner is a 1L at Harvard Law School.

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