NFL publishes price list for cheating

In a little-noticed move yesterday, the NFL published what can only be described as a price list for teams that want to get the rules waived during a game. All the team needs to do is inform the officials of the intended infraction and pay the designated amount (I’m guessing payments will be electronic?). The refs get payment confirmation and no flag will be thrown.

Word of this price list circulated quickly through the dark side of the Internet as players and teams fought to keep it secret. Of course, once something hits the Internet, it doesn’t remain secret for long.

Despite my efforts, I haven’t been able to get ahold of the actual price list, but based on the comments I’ve seen I can piece together some of its parts. Some were willing to chat with me online and share their thoughts. Out of respect, I won’t identify people making comments.

“This is great!” said one player. “If we need to interfere with a receiver, all we have to do is signal that the team will pay the $10,000. That’s a small price to pay for preventing your opponent from taking the lead in the fourth quarter.”

One coach noted that his club—one of the wealthiest—will have a distinct advantage. “We’ve had strong teams in recent years but just haven’t been able to get past the last hurdle. We’ve got plenty of cash, and I suspect we will use it to level the playing field against certain teams.”

I asked this coach if the NFL should just shred the rule book all together. “No,” he said. “Certain rules have to be there for safety reasons. That’s why grabbing a guy’s face mask will still get you a yardage penalty. But the rules designed to ensure fair competition, well, it’ll be nice to get them waived when needed.” When pressed to identify when a waiver might be needed, the coach said, “Say your offense has momentum. The last thing your guys need is some dunderhead getting himself declared an ineligible receiver and cutting the momentum off. For a lousy thousand bucks, we can ensure that a dumb mistake won’t kill us.”

With all of this coming on the heels of “Deflate-gate,” I had to ask the obvious question: does this price list include using under-inflated balls? One player would only say, “What do you think?” I asked what the named cost was, but he demurred. “It’s not a million bucks, I’ll say that.” He wouldn’t reveal anything more, which leads one to wonder: are there increased prices for playoff games, championship games, and even the Super Bowl? After asking the coach this question repeatedly, he simply signed off the chat.

Shameful lawyer behavior

After the cloud computing presentation yesterday at the St. Joseph County Bar Association’s Local Practice Seminar, I took some time today to review materials at a web site discussed during the program.

I’m embarrassed by the behavior of this particular attorney. To avoid problems, I won’t name names, but I’ll describe what I saw.

This attorney (who at least has graduated from law school; whether he is admitted I do not know) does not practice law. Instead, he offers technology consulting services. He presents CLE programs around the country, and as a service (as well as a marketing tool, obviously), he puts his slide presentations on his web site where people can download them at no cost. This attorney is a pretty heavy-hitter in the world of law practice management. He’s co-written books with some of the leaders in the field, and they’ve been published by the American Bar Association.

So, always hoping to pick up a point or two, I downloaded a host of them and started reading them. I didn’t get all the way through them.

First, the things are damn ugly. Ugly ugly ugly. They look amateurish, garish, almost screaming. They have way, way too much text on them. (Dude, go read some Presentation Zen materials and clean up your slides.) The consultant puts a bunch of his awards etc. on one slide (with badges of honor copied from web sites). This bothers me because if you’re presenting, I’m assuming you have the credentials—otherwise the conference organizers would not have brought you in.

But what stopped me cold in my tracks was his use of one photograph on a slide. The subject of the photograph was innocuous, but plainly visible was an watermark. The purpose of is to get royalty-free photographs from photographers to end users. For a modest price (a couple of bucks per image, usually) you get a non-exclusive yet permanent license to use the image. The company that runs, understandably, doesn’t want people ripping off its images, so it uses a simple watermark: two diagonal lines running corner to corner with in the center.

Rather than coughing up the small fee for the image, this lawyer/consultant just ripped it off. And this really bothers me on a number of levels.

  • His use of the image in this fashion infringes the photographer’s copyright. We lawyers are supposed to respect, honor, and follow the law. We ought to set an example for others.
  • His use of the image ignores the licensing arrangements iStockphoto sets up. Really, you couldn’t pay the couple of bucks so you decide to cheat?
  • He publicly displays his behavior by including the image in his CLE presentation.
  • He does this knowing that his audience is going to be a bunch of LAWYERS!
  • He doesn’t bother to fix the problem before making his slides available to the world.

How does he expect to be taken seriously by a group of attorneys when he’s clearly willing to ignore the rules when it suits him? Perhaps he’s hoping the attorneys aren’t tech savvy enough to notice what he’s done. Whether he’s a scofflaw or he thinks his audience isn’t smart doesn’t matter. That behavior is insulting either way.

Perhaps this is an isolated incident, an accident that slipped through the cracks. It happens to the best of us. But before I put something I’ve prepared out on the Internet for my colleagues to download and use, I would hope that I’ve gone through it carefully to make sure there isn’t anything there that will make me look bad. All this lawyer has done is open himself up to a claim for copyright infringement every time someone downloaded a copy of his presentation.

Oy. I hope this attorney/consultant stumbles across this post and realizes what he’s done. It would be even better if a few attorney/consultants wonder “is he talking about me?” and go double-check their materials online. Regardless, all I know is that I’m not going to use this guy’s site as a resource any longer. The ugly slides with spelling errors I can handle. The “I’m too cheap to pay a pittance to use an image” attitude I can’t.