Touted as a baseball town, St. Louis isn’t proving to be very baseball friendly this fall. First, the world champion St. Louis Cardinals miss the playoffs. Now the U.S. Eighth District Court of Appeals has handed Major League Baseball Advanced Media and the MLB Players Association another loss in their battle to control the use of player names and stats in fantasy sports leagues. It’s also a loss for the other major leagues and sports associations who filed amici briefs in support of MLB, including the NFL, NHL, PGA , and NASCAR. This case started in 2005, when C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc., which seeks fantasy sports products, went to court claiming First Amendment rights to use names and information of major league players; MLBAM asserted that it had the right to license the information and that the fantasy leagues would need a license. C.B.C. had a license agreements with MLBPA from 1995-2004; that stopped after the players association signed a deal with MLBAM, which wouldn’t license that information to C.B.C.
The U.S. District Court of Eastern Missouri ruled in favor of C.B.C. Distribution last year and, today, the appellate court upheld that ruling 2-1, saying, in part: “The Supreme Court has directed that state law rights of publicity must be balanced against first amendment considerations … and here we conclude that the former must give way to the latter. … the information used in CBC’s fantasy baseball games is all readily available in the public domain, and it would be strange law that a person would not have a first amendment right to use information that is available to everyone.” Bloomberg has more details about the case. We’ll post the opinion as soon as we can.
Next step: The next step for MLBAM and MBLPA would be a request for a rehearing before the entire appellate court, rather than a panel. If the court declines or they lose again, they can go to the U.S. Supreme Court. Even if they do try, there’s no guarantee the court will take the case.
The full case is for reading or downloading below (RSS readers will have to click through):