Document Type

Response or Comment

Publication Title

Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law

Publication Date




First Page




In the past decade new technologies have enabled large groups of people, separated by geographical distance and sometimes even national boundaries, to join together for pursuit of social good or economic gains. For example, we have seen thousands of participants engage in the editing of Wikipedia, contributing their expertise to build a base of knowledge on the web. Charities, artists, and now even for-profit businesses are able to use crowdfunding to raise financial support for their endeavors. Prediction markets allow participants to forecast outcomes of future events, creating incentives for accuracy either through monetary rewards or reputational advantage. Crowdsourcing websites have allowed thousands of workers to complete small tasks which in the aggregate tackle large-scale problems, whether those are for altruistic purposes (e.g., performing search and rescue for the downed Malaysian jetliner in 2014 by having many volunteers scan satellite footage of large areas of water) or for-profit businesses on Amazon Mechanical Turk. Through gamification certain types of mundane computer work can be made fun, rendering it far more enjoyable.

The common link between these diverse ideas and models is that they use technology to facilitate what author James Surowiecki has termed “the wisdom of crowds.” I have long been fascinated with collaborative technologies on the Internet and indeed, have written on many of these issues over the years. In previous writing I have examined why some of these collaborative technologies have become commodified while others remain non-profit and largely appeal to the altruism of participants. I am also intrigued with how new collaborative technologies and endeavors interact – or fail to interact - with existing laws and regulatory regimes.

Coming from this perspective, when I first read “Catalyzing Fans” in draft last year, I responded by emailing my friend Dan Markel comments. As I let the authors know, I found their proposal for Fan Action Committees (FACs) to be intriguing, and fitting within the developing area of online collaborative tools that I have been studying and thinking about. As the authors explain in extensive detail in their article, FACs allow fans to join together to express their appreciation. That appreciation could be for a favorite television show or movie, a beloved actor or actress, support for a talented sports figure or a home team more generally, or perhaps even a favorite professor. FACs could step in to provide the proper incentives to influence producer, talent, or corporate behavior in a way that is consistent with the collective wishes of the fan base. As the authors note, FACs could manifest their wishes in many ways, e.g., retaining a popular athlete on a home team (either through direct transfer payments or to a charity foundation), backing the creation of more episodes of a favorite television show, or creating a sequel for a favorite movie. To summarize by restating it in law and economic terms, FACs would allow fans to fill in the gaps when markets typically fail and fan preferences are not reflected.



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