14 August 2006

Joy in Mudville

Several times over the past year or so, I've written about Major League Baseball's quixotic attempts to "own" baseball statistics for licensing purposes (see here, here, and here); nonetheless, I would have missed the happy news of MLB's litigation defeat but for a timely post by Marty Schwimmer. From Sports Illustrated:
Baseball and its players have no right to prevent the use of names and playing records, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Medler in St. Louis ruled in a 49-page summary judgment.

. . . .

Major League Baseball claimed that intellectual property laws and so-called "right of publicity" make it illegal for fantasy leagues to make money off the identities and stats of professional players.

But even if the players could claim the right of publicity against commercial ventures by others, Medler wrote, the First Amendment takes precedent because CBC, which runs CDM Fantasy Sports, is disseminating the same statistical information found in newspapers every day.

"The names and playing records of major league baseball players as used in CBC's fantasy games are not copyrightable," Medler wrote. "Therefore, federal copyright law does not pre-empt the players' claimed right of publicity."

From the beginning, I predicted that MLB would not succeed, which makes me 1-0 in my baseball-related litigation predictions. You can use that statistic if you pay me a licensing fee.

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