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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Who Owns Baseball Statistics?

The New York Times reports that Major League Baseball claims to own the commercial use of baseball statistics. If MLB prevails, unlicensed commercial fantasy-baseball operations would have to cease operation. Says the Times:
The dispute is between a company in St. Louis that operates fantasy sports leagues over the Internet and the Internet arm of Major League Baseball, which says that anyone using players' names and performance statistics to operate a fantasy league commercially must purchase a license. The St. Louis company counters that it does not need a license because the players are public figures whose statistics are in the public domain.... The case is scheduled for jury trial in United States District Court in St. Louis beginning Sept. 5. CBC and Major League Baseball Advanced Media filed motions for summary judgment that the court could rule on in July.
MLB already licenses operations that use player photos and team logos. But according to the Times:
Major League Baseball Advanced Media, which runs its own array of fantasy games on the league's portal, MLB.com, has decreased its number of licensees from dozens in 2004 to 19 last season to 7 this year, focusing on large multimedia outlets like CBS SportsLine and cutting out many of the four-figure licenses that had covered smaller operators' use of only names and statistics. CBC, which had a license from 1995 to 2004, filed suit to confirm that it has the right to use those limited materials freely.
Interestingly, baseball once took a different position:
When several major leaguers from the 1940's and 50's sued Major League Baseball over use of their names and statistics in materials like promotional videos and game programs, baseball argued that such use was protected by the First Amendment.
Is any comment necessary?

Cross-posted at Against Monopoly.

1 comment:

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