Next in our Sports Law Brief series is Mr. Tony Illiakostas (@ailiakostas), who we are pleased to welcome. Growing up, Tony had a variety of career aspirations but ultimately decided to go to law school at New York Law School, following in the footsteps of his mother and aunt. During his law school career, Tony interned at ABC News (June 2013 – May 2014) in the Rights & Clearance Department and also founded Law & Batting Order, which he still solely runs today.
“I had a Kodak VI6 camera lying around, tripod, iPad … In December of 2011, Law & Batting Order was formed … [Starting Law & Batting Order] has really opened up a lot of doors for me, and I’m convinced that it got me the job at ABC News and definitely helped me get [my current job], largely because of my social media marketing. I’ve networked with tons of sports lawyers and had the opportunity to interview some notable people [in the sports law industry]. My best part is that it’s still a work in progress … [and] I’m always looking to improve it.”
After graduation, Tony returned to ABC News and worked in the same department as a freelance associate. Currently, Tony works at Corbis Entertainment as a Business Affairs Manager, which includes working with company’s Rights Representation Group that oversees the personality rights of Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Ali, and Elvis Presley, among other notable stars. Additionally, Tony runs the Albert Einstein social media accounts (the verified ones of course). Finally, Mr. Illiakostas serves as a contributing writer for Law Newz.
Social Media, Media Consumers & Video Analysis
“According to some statistics, in 2011, the average attention span of a person was twelve seconds. In 2015, that attention span is 8.5 seconds. The average attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds. So our attention span has diminished tremendously. Now, why do you think that is? It’s because of the rise of smartphones. We can get our news on smartphones. We have Twitter … [With] Facebook, it’s all about instantaneity — you can mention you’re in a relationship right away, you can mention that you received a job promotion right away, you share your photos right away. That’s the beauty of social media. It’s constantly evolving and constantly changing the way we consume content.”
“If you were to ask your four-year-old self, ‘Would you rather read a book or watch the movie version of the book?’ You’d say the movie version because what better way to kill time than to just watch the TV and watch motions. … I definitely think video is a very powerful tool, and it has definitely proven itself to me as I’ve built Law & Batting Order.”
Lack of Proactivity From Professional Leagues?
As it specifically pertains to professional leagues, it seems as though they do not adequately forecast what problems, legal or otherwise, may arise. As a result, they are forced to engage in PR crisis management to the fullest extent, which could have been slightly or even completely avoided. For instance, NASCAR made changes to its safety regulations only after Dale Earnhardt was tragically killed, and the NFL implemented its domestic violence policy only after the Ray Rice debacle.
“Certainly, there are glaring issues within each league that can be foreseeable. In the case of NASCAR driver safety, when you drive 130 miles per hour, you’re bound to hit a wall, blow up in smoke and flames, and possibly die; that’s something that is definitely foreseeable. NFL players have been arrested year after year after year, and certainly some of those arrests have included assaults of their spouses. … These crises are magnified even more because of the juiciness of the story headline, which is what the media feeds off of.”
“In essence, it is possible for the league to identify these issues in advance. The problem with this is that it could get some backlash. For instance, we saw it with the NFL and Human Growth Hormone (HGH) testing. Drug testing has always been an issue among the leagues because what do you test for? Do you only test for testosterone? What kind of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) do you test for? Can you grant an exception to a player who legitimately needs it?”
“Leagues definitely have an obligation right now to identify what the potential risks are (for a certain issue) and to premeditate what to do if the situation exasperates. What happened in (baseball) this offseason? You had three noteworthy MLB players involved in domestic violence disputes: Jose Reyes, Yasiel Puig, and Aroldis Chapman. … I’m sure that Rob Manfred will look at all of their cases and possibly sanction all three of them for a set amount of games. But, that was smart [by the MLB] – they didn’t have to wait for a player to commit an act of domestic violence in order to implement the policy. I think that’s something that all leagues should follow.”
Intellectual Property & Sports Law Issues
“I want to touch on daily fantasy sports (DFS) first. … The right of publicity is something very interesting because … it’s your individual image, that’s your intellectual property right that belongs to you. Because you own that intellectual property, you don’t want it to be misappropriated in some way. For example, let’s say that I’m anti-tomato soup. Someone decides to use my image, the Law & Batting Order logo, and slaps it on a tomato soup can, ‘Tony loves Campbell’s Tomato Soup. Why don’t you join him in enjoying it as well?’ For me, that’s a misappropriation because they use it without consent and classifying information attached to my likeness.”
“The obvious issue in the DFS world is two-fold: (1) the DFS formats haven’t reached out to players to use their head shots in their website … and they also, I believe, changed the player’s uniform so that it’s a standard black. Whether it’s Aaron Rodgers or Pierre Garcon, there’s obviously a breach there in terms of rights of publicity; and (2) they are potentially using their likeness as to almost suggest that the player is promoting DFS gaming. I know it’s kind of a stretch … but it’s something to take into consideration. Overall, I think it’s something that you will have to wait and see about, especially since there are more important issues that the daily fantasy sports websites are dealing with right now – mainly, whether that form of gaming is legal under federal law.”
“As to eSports, I think the broadcast rights are something that should be taken into very serious consideration. We have Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and other platforms that these gamers can stream and share their gameplay to the whole world. The obvious concern is with the creators of the video games. If a notable YouTube gamer is showing 20-minute clips and playing SuperMario Kart, making a ton of money whereby Nintendo isn’t getting a dime, Nintendo is of course going to be upset … because that’s a potential licensing opportunity.”
“The other issue is that those gamers could receive endorsement deals, which could also be lost revenue for the gaming companies. Another glaring intellectual property issue with eSports is the streaming component, in the sense that there could be illegal streaming going on. … I definitely that (those issues) are something that is fixable, and I think the growth of eSports will definitely bring those issues to the forefront. As gaming companies see how the industry is amplifying and growing so rapidly, I’m sure that they will sit back and their legal team will say, ‘Well, in the end, if a player is becoming notable, that’s a win for us.’”
“2016 is going to be the year for eSports, no doubt about it. ESPN is hopping on the eSports bandwagon because it will be a big moneymaker. People (including ESPN) are finally giving gamers the credit they deserve.”
MULS Sports Law Society Blog sincerely thanks Tony for taking the time to discuss a wide variety of sports law issues with us. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation because I am also immersed in the studies of intellectual property law. In closing, we wish Tony continued success with Law & Batting Order, as well as his future law endeavors.
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