17 October 2007

The Eighth Circuit makes the real world safe for fantasy leaguers.

For the last two-and-a-half years, I've followed Major League Baseball's and the MLB Players' Association's misguided legal crusade to "own" baseball statistics and to require licensing fees for their use in fantasy/rotisserie baseball leagues (see here, here, here, and here). I'm happy to note that, in all likelihood (barring a grant of certiorari and reversal by the Supreme Court), Mighty Casey has struck out. From Howard Wasserman of the Sports Law Blog:
The court held that, although the players enjoyed a state-law right of publicity in their names and other personal information, their publicity rights were trumped by CBC's First Amendment right to use this information. The court balanced the substantial public interest and value in this information against the relatively weak right of publicity in play. CBC's use of the information does not interfere with the players' economic interests, their ability to earn a living from their names or their performances, which is the interest at the heart of the right of publicity; that weakened publicity interest must give way to free speech rights.

At the Concurring Opinions blog, Neil Richards, who was involved with the legal team supporting the fantasy league operators, had this to say:
I think the case was straightforward from a First Amendment point of view, but the really interesting implication of the case is what it will mean for the massive (and profitable) fantasy sports industry . . . . Today's holding seems to stand for the proposition that baseball cannot "own" the historical facts of its games (just as famous people can't own the facts of their biographies), and it protects fantasy sports companies to continue to offer games that are not merely "official" licensed products controlled by the major sports leagues. It's also a much-needed strike against the rise of unnecessary intellectual property licensing . . . .

No comments: