Cubs sue rooftop owners
December 19, 2002 3:03 PM   Subscribe

With negotiations breaking down, the Chicago Cubs have decided to sue "rooftop clubs" that sell tickets to watch games on rooftops surrounding Wrigley Field. Apparently the tickets cost between $70-$130. The Cubs are claiming unjust enrichment and public performance of a copyrighted work, due to the "clubs" showing the games to patrons via television. (via the Trademark Blog)
posted by anathema (19 comments total)
Has anyone watched a game from one of those bleachers? I've been inside WF, but never on a rooftop, and I've always wondered what's so special about them. I mean, it would be very, very cool to, say, live in one of the buildings and get to watch a Cubs game from your roof whenever you want. But to pay $100 to sit so very, very far away? Someone explain.
posted by risenc at 3:10 PM on December 19, 2002

Has anyone watched a game from one of those bleachers?

I have, it's a boatload of fun. It's like being in the bleachers and at a BBQ at the same time.

Nevertheless, the fat cats across from Wrigley should pay. They are not sympathetic neighbors, but leaches...Without the Cubs they'd have no product. By comparison, would it be fair to theater owners if people could watch movies through a window into the movie theater? No.
posted by Bag Man at 3:23 PM on December 19, 2002

i thought this was kinda cool, till i read this:

Once those fans were local residents in lawn chairs, a beer in one hand and a bratwurst in the other, but today the rooftops are controlled by business people who charge customers to watch games live or on television.

lame. i'd be really upset if i lived in an apartment there, and someone made me pay to get to the roof, a privelege i had previously enjoyed for free.

anyhow, really interesting story. thanks anathema.
posted by fishfucker at 3:24 PM on December 19, 2002

At least they're being more honest about trying to block out viewers - remeber when they proposed building walls/windscreens screens because of "security/terrorist concerns". Jeez.
posted by ao4047 at 3:33 PM on December 19, 2002

A couple friends of mine lived in one of the buildings past left field. You could see in the park from their window. It was pretty cool, but you had limited sight lines. The rooftops are most definatly controled by businesses, and the tenents don't get access normally.
posted by jbelshaw at 3:40 PM on December 19, 2002

By comparison, would it be fair to theater owners if people could watch movies through a window into the movie theater?

A better comparison would be to drive-in movie theatres. And yes, it would be fair. You are not getting the same experience as you would were you inside the venue.

If you want to do something out in the open then expect onlookers to look on.

(Makes me think of the ruling in, I think, CA, that people can secretly videotape up your skirt in at the mall because there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. That's equally wrong as what the Cubs claim. )
posted by Ayn Marx at 4:52 PM on December 19, 2002

I've lived 1/2 block from Wrigley for the last 5 years (Sheffield N. of Waveland - no rooftop view for me!).

Ya know how all politics is local? This issue is, too. Here in Chicago, no real estate development takes place without the local alderman's approval. And in this case, that's Bernie Hansen.

The real problem here is that the Trib doesn't take care of the alderman, I mean neighborhood, like they should. Now, the rooftops provide fine summer jobs for all the alderman's precinct workers - the Trib doesn't. The Trib throws its money away on fancy downtown charities, like mitten drives for poor children; the rooftops owners spend tier charitable dollars more sensibly - on mulit-million $ sweetheart real estate deals and investments with the Alderman's sons and other family members.

Oh, the rooftops didn't start off being so, uh, neighborhood friendly, but when they started to make some money all of a sudden a special tax was passed on their business, and building code and ADA compliance inspectors started to show up all the time. They wised up.

No matter what the lawyers and other say, given that the Cubs can't go anywhere and thus have no leverage, they aren't going to get what they want until the alderman gets what he wants.

That's what this is really about.
posted by Jos Bleau at 5:15 PM on December 19, 2002

I have a friend who has a house which has a balcony that overlooks the local outdoor concert venue.

Whenever there's a hot band playing, he has a BBQ and opens his doors to anyone that stops by as long as they contribute $5 for the expense of the food.

While Tears for Fears covered the stage when they played here (didn't stop us from listening, though, hmmm)--I expect Eminem and others to sue my friend any day now.

posted by WolfDaddy at 6:21 PM on December 19, 2002

The big issue here seems to be missapropriation of the Cubs' product. The Cubs have invested a large amount of money in creating their team/stadium/ballpark experience and the rooftop entrepreneurs are free-riding.

This doctrine of missapropriation stem from a case in 1918 when International News Service was banned from Europe as a result of Hearst's pro-German leanings-so they simply looked at Associated Press broadsheets and ran them as their own.

Black-letter-law-wise, the outcome of the case will probably hinge on whether the rooftop owners are actually causing the Cubs to lose money (since more fans would pay for admission otherwise).

(forgive my pedantry: I'm a law student and just took my intellectul property final)
posted by flagrante_delicto at 9:04 PM on December 19, 2002

'intellectual', doh!
posted by flagrante_delicto at 9:04 PM on December 19, 2002

Send a band of Harpies to pluck their eyes out, I say!
posted by troutfishing at 10:24 PM on December 19, 2002

I have a friend of mine whose brother owns one of the buildings that looks onto left field. His brother lives on the top floor of the building, and his living room window looks right onto the field. My friend didn't know anything about sports at all, and always wondered why people were always freaking out about his brother's address.

One day they came home during a night game, hit the light, his brother turns on the TV, and goes to raise the blinds in the front window. As the TV is coming on, Harry Caray says over the air "Hey, the boys are just getting home! Where you been? It's been a great game!" My friend thinks it's a neat coincidence, and his brother raises the blinds and waves out the window. Harry yells out "Hiya boys!", and his brother goes to get a beer. Jeff walks to the window to look out, and Harry says "Hey guy, beautiful night for a game, ain't it?", and Jeff turns to the TV to see a picture of himself standing in the window on the TV.

Jeff said he waved out the window, turned and watched himself waving out the window, and then realized that he too needed a beer.

Jeff's brother had a rent-a-roof, and the thing that pissed them off two years ago was when the business running the roof next door put up privacy screens 15 feet tall that cut off their view of downtown from the roof. The next week there were ads claiming they were the only left field roof with views of the skyline. People are asses.
posted by dglynn at 12:49 AM on December 20, 2002

The Cubs could just send vicious thugs to poke out the eyes of everyone who lived in the immediate neighborhood.
posted by troutfishing at 6:51 AM on December 20, 2002

I used to live in a building on Sheffield over the right field wall (mid-late eighties). The living room window view was basically the left third of the playing field, although you could see the game from the roof. (which we had free access to). Back then, tho, the cubs weren't exactly a hot ticket, as I assume is true today. Normally we'd just wait until the 3rd or fourth inning, buy tix off a scalper for $5 or some ridiculous number, and enjoy the best view in MLB -- inside Wrigley, situated directly behind a cold Old Style.
posted by luser at 7:31 AM on December 20, 2002

If I charge people to come over to my place because I have a really good view of the Space Shuttle taking off, should NASA get a cut? I don't think so.
posted by Witty at 8:01 AM on December 20, 2002

Terrible comparison.

NASA isn't trying to make money off people watching the shuttle launch. NASA is not a corporation in the business of earning a profit.

People watching the games from the rooftops is fine. Charging people to watch a game from that rooftop is not.
posted by tolkhan at 8:34 AM on December 20, 2002

no real estate development takes place without the local alderman's approval. And in this case, that's Bernie Hansen.

Not for much longer, thank the gods. Though my reasons for disliking that jerk aren't about Wrigley Field, it's about the stupid condo developments on North Halsted street which threaten the nightlife character of the street. Idiots buy half-a-million dollar condos right next door to a big late night dance club and complain about the noise. Duh!
posted by dnash at 9:23 AM on December 20, 2002

dnash - Amen! I thought it was great when the dance club next door to one of those buildings put up a sign in great big letters "Attention potential condo buyers - we play loud dance music until 2 am ever night".

I should have ended my post above with -
If the Trib would have invested in a little "neighborhood development" that favored the alderman, then the rooftops would have made a deal with the Trib and there would be no lawsuit.

There's gonna a be a new alderman soon, he's younger & gayer than Bernie, so he's more like the neighborhood - but he's also a creation of the mayor, and since Daley also wants stuff from the Trib, the rooftops will continue to resist the Trib. Sooner or later the Trib will find a way to buy off the mayor without compromising their "principles". The rooftops will then be told to make a deal. And if they don't - those inspectors will be back in no time ....
posted by Jos Bleau at 3:28 PM on December 20, 2002

tolkhan: Perhaps it was a bad comparison.

NASA is not a corporation in the business of earning a profit.

Ok, Ok... but IF THEY WERE! :o)

I'm trying to side with the owners of the rooftops. I don't feel like (and the law may feel differently) that they are really doing anything wrong. They own a building that happens to have a view of the inside of the stadium. Assuming that the owners didn't build the structure... meaning the buildings have been there for a while, how is it their fault that they have this advantage? With that in mind, they have a product to offer and should be able to charge for it. The Cubs have a product too... it's just inside the stadium.

Even if they did build the structure in such a way as to take advantage of the stadium, if the city lets them build it, then they should be able take advantage of it. I just don't see it any differently than I do a cover charge for a band or something.

"Welcome to Jimmy's Bar and Nightclub. It costs $10 to get in. We have a great view of the city from the roof. On some days, you can even see the Cubs play. Come on in."

Seems reasonable to me.
posted by Witty at 12:55 AM on December 21, 2002

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