August 11, 2006

In a summary judgment order issued on Tuesday, a Federal Court in St. Louis has confirmed the argument that baseball statistics are inherently public and that Major League Baseball has no intellectual property rights in them. In the August 9, 2006 summary judgment order in CBC Distribution and Marketing Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, Judge Mary Ann Medler disagreed with Major League Baseball’s argument that reproducing baseball statistics were effectively “stealing” the rights of publicity of the players. According to Judge Medler, “[t]he names and playing records of major league baseball players as used in CBC’s fantasy games are not copyrightable,” and “[t]herefore, federal copyright law does not pre-empt the players’ claimed right of publicity.” Judge Medler also likened baseball statistics to “the names, towns and telephone numbers in a phone book, to census data, and to news of the day.” This ruling has an impact on the operators and participants of fantasy sports leagues, where an estimated 15 to 18 million people participate in the U.S. alone. Major League Baseball reportedly paid $50 million to the players union over a five year period for the rights in the statistics, and then, according to the Los Angeles Times, licensed the rights to a number of organizations, including ESPN, Yahoo!, and CBS Sportsline, for a reported $2 million each. CBC, an online provider of fantasy sports services, was unable to obtain a contract for the statistics in 2005, and suit was filed that year. Major League Baseball has publicly announced its intention to appeal this order.

Yahoo! News Article: LINK
Los Angeles Times Article: LINK
Northwest Herald (Illinois) Article: LINK
Sports Illustrated News Article: LINK


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