Friday, June 3, 2011

Roland Garros 2011: Appeal to FFT

To French Federation of Tennis,

I'm aware that the International Tennis Writer's Association has asked the authorities not to publish transcripts that follow the matches after Roland Garros within a 24-48 hour limit. I'm also aware that the decision has been made not to publish the transcripts at all.

While I understand the reasons given by the ITWA (see a publicized copy of their
letter here), I think the response not to publish transcripts at all is short-sighted and overshoots the mark for a number of reasons.

1) The most important reason is that Roland Garros 2011 is a part of modern tennis
history. These transcripts are a primary source. This year there are plenty of
stories that could form material for a book (or part of a book): Nadal's attempt to equal Borg's record, Djokovic's streak, Federer's 2nd Roland Garros to cap a career, Murray's breakthrough Slam, Na Li's breakthrough Slam as the first Chinese woman and/or Schiavone's repeat. Ironicially, some member of the ITWA would no longer be able to go to a publically available official source after the event has concluded such as the Roland Garros website. As you might be aware, when a writer is working on
a book, they do not always have the luxury of traveling to collect primary sources.

2) As I understand players do not always trust the media to represent their words
accurately, and feel that their words are taken out of context. This is especially
true of players who tend to speak discusively and at length (e.g. Federer, Nadal, Schiavone, Henin).

Publically available transcripts would hold the press accountable for responsible journalism as it would be easy to compare what the journalist wrote with what the player actually said. Furthermore, players that are not necessarily stars of the game and not given a lot of mainstream media attention would also have a bit more spotlight.

This issue with accurate representation of the players does come down to the ATP & WTA having a stake in these interviews. In honoring the request of the ITWA, it's not entirely clear if the player's unions have been consulted for their opinion on the matter. I have volunteered reasons for why the player's union would not simply accept the ITWA's request by embargoing all transcripts.

3) Finally, these transcripts are getting leaked to other sites (a la WikiLeaks). Fans that want to see these transcripts are hitting those sites instead of Roland Garros, which ought to be getting those site hits. There is no guarantee that
those sites are accurately representing those transcripts. I believe it is in your interests to be the ones presenting the official stamp of approval on those transcripts on the Roland Garros website. It is in principle no different
from addressing a black market: the best way to control such a marketplace
is to present yourself as the official source of such information.

I write these things as a concerned & informed tennis fan. I also work for a large entertainment company. I know that intellectual property rights for entertainment products are a subtle issue. What is needed is an output deal that would satisfy
the interests of all the stakeholders (ITWA, ATP, WTA, the publicists at
Roland Garros, etc.). I believe a 24-48 hour embargo is reasonable to allow
journalists to get their stories out while it is hot, but an indefinite embargo is not reasonable at all.


In conclusion, an output deal is needed that would satisfy all the parties.

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