Federal Court Says MLBAM Can’t Halt Use Of Player Names, Stats

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CBC Distribution and Marketing hit an improbably long ball over the fence when its request for summary judgment against MLBAM was granted in federal court Tuesday. The Sept. 5 trial was over before it began in the case pitting the rights of a fantasy sports league operator to use stats and player names versus MLB’s contention that such use is commercial and requires a license. It’s a major victory for CBC and others — law professor Eugene Volokh fretted earlier this year that a ruling against CBC could haunt any commercial venture relying on historical facts including Trivial Pursuit and historical novels — but it’s not a done deal. MLBAM has the right of response to the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Medler and can then appeal. If the MLBAM counsel determines that the ruling could undermine existing licenses, an appeal seems likely. MLBAM spokesman Jim Gallagher told AP the ruling is being reviewed and the MLB Players Association had to be consulted “before we have anything more to say.”
The situation began in 2005 when MLBAM acquired the rights to represent the MLBPA in licensing, decided to limit its licenses for fantasy baseball and refused to grant one to St. Louis-based CBC, which then filed suit. For some, the outcome is not only a First Amendment victory but a blow against MLBAM’s efforts to control the major league baseball environment.
CBC posted a scan of the brief. From the ruling: “the court finds that the undisputed facts establish that the players do not have a right of publicity in their names and playing records as used in CBC’s fantasy games and that CBC has not violated the players’ claimed right of publicity. The court further finds, alternatively, that even if the players have a claimed right of publicity, the First Amendment takes precedence over such a right. The court further finds that the undisputed facts establish that the names and playing records of Major League baseball players as used in CBC’s fantasy games are not copyrightable and, therefore, federal copyright law does not preempt the players’ claimed right of publicity.”
NYT (reg. req.): “According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, more than 15 million people spend about $1.5 billion annually to play fantasy sports â

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