Baseball Changes Story Against Fantasy League; Doesn't Know When To Give Up For Its Own Good

from the pissing-off-the-fans dept

Major League Baseball just doesn't know when to stop. As we noted yesterday, MLB lost their case where they claimed that an online fantasy league could be prevented from using the names and stats of baseball players. We even had an MLB.com employee stop by and admit that MLB's position was embarrassing. However, it seems that the folks at the top still don't get it. They've decided to appeal the case. Notably, though, it appears like they're trying to change their story slightly, saying that they agree player names and stats are public domain (which is not what they had been saying earlier), but that the use of team logos was illegal without a license. That's a different argument altogether, and goes back to trademark law -- rather than copyright law or rights of privacy. Again, though, they may have a difficult case on their hands. As we've discussed repeatedly, a trademark is supposed to prevent confusion, not give the holder complete control over the trademark. So, as long as the fantasy league makes it clear that baseball and the teams don't officially endorse their league, it may be difficult for MLB to claim confusion. While we've been attacking this from the business and legal perspective for years, it seems that even those on the sports side of the fence can't figure out what MLB's reasoning is here. King Kaufman, one of my favorite sportswriters, has written up a piece telling MLB how lucky they are that they lost this decision. He points out how little money they actually make from fantasy licensing -- and how much they stand to lose by continuing to piss off their fans.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Sohrab, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 2:19am

    I wonder why their the only ones doing this, dont see NBA or NFL going after Fantasy leagues

     

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  2.  
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    Brad Behrens, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 3:35am

    agreeing with a statement made

    "King Kaufman, one of my favorite sportswriters, has written up a piece telling MLB how lucky they are that they lost this decision. He points out how little money they actually make from fantasy licensing -- and how much they stand to lose by continuing to piss off their fans." I just wanted to say that I totaly agree with that

     

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  3.  
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    Sanguine Dream, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 5:20am

    Hold on...

    I thought they were fantasy sports. For the most part anyone that gets into the fantasy sports is at least competent enough to know that it isn't the real league. I do believe something to the effect of "not reality" can be found somewhere in the definition of fantasy.

    This is a shining example of why people don't want to deal with big corporations when it comes to copyrightable and trademarked material (RIAA). They always try to rig the contract so they own everything and give the proverbial drop in the bucket in return.

    Next thing you know someone will claim confusion when I make my own music videos and post them on the net. Oh yeah...

     

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  4.  
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    Volpster, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 5:33am

    So ridiculous

    You're right Sanguine. It's a fantasy sport. It is made up, make-believe, not real.. no matter how you put it, these are not real teams nor are the people running them real managers.

    You would think that there would be enough common sense among the corporate do-gooders in the MLB to avoid this pety issue and save the time and effort. All this does is prove that in almost every business no matter how big or small there are some idiots at the top.

     

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  5.  
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    n solo, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 5:42am

    MLB jerks and Media stupidity

    Now MLB is just trying to get a useless judgment in their favor so they don't look like a bunch of jerks. Who cares if a fantasy site uses MLB or team logos. They add nothing to the experience, they are just free advertising for MLB.

    Also, even though many in the media seem to agree in the long run its better for pro sports to have fantasy leagues generate interest, they always seem to want to say that the decisions will cost pro sports so many millions of dollars. Why it is "costing" pro sports because they no longer be able to sell rights they don't own? What about the opportunities lost to the average joe who would participate in fantasy gaming but loathes money grubbing, advertisement bloated, mega sites like ESPN.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 5:50am

    Other Leagues Starting to Look Into It

    I know that the NFL is starting to look into the same thing so that they can control the fantasy leagues as well. The decision may have slowed down their plans, but rest assured that they will be watching the appeal. Why anyone would want to try to piss off fans and get the slight, slight profit that they could gain - especially the NFL - at the risk of alienating fans is beyond me, but it is going to happen.

     

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  7.  
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    weasel, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 6:09am

    Baseball sucks donkey balls!

    I knew that long before they went on strike or did this stupid crap.

    Aren't you getting tired of these people making tons of money and then crying like little babies when they lose a few bucks.

     

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  8.  
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    Jeff, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 6:19am

    Owners are greedy

    Its the American way. Everyone wants their cut. If every fantasy league out there had to give a cut to MLB, NFL, NBA, etc. then they would be raking in huge amounts of cash.

    Good thing the courts determined that greed has gone too far.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 6:56am

    Baseball sucks anyway. I hope this is the final blow to a slowly dying sport. Baseball is too boring to watch on TV and a waste of money to watch at the ballpark.

     

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  10.  
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    Sanguine Dream, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 7:00am

    What bothers me...

    is that the major sports leagues didn't try to do this when fantasy leagues first started? I love how companies wait until someone else idea takes off and then all of a sudden its infringing on a copyright or trademark or whatever excuse to sue them.

    You would think that the major league sports would want the attention that fantasy league generate. From what I understand the fastasy leagues use the end game stats of the majors which means fantasy players need to pay attention to the majors for stats. And I'm sure alot of the fantasy fans would start watching the major leagues if for nothing more than to get the scores ASAP.

     

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  11.  
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    cmacd, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 7:00am

    Fantasy Sports

    The only reason I keep up with sports after my home team has pissed away its season is for my fantasy team. If they made every user pay per use to play, they would lose fans, and their fans would lose interest.

     

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  12.  
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    Topher3105, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 7:40am

    Yeah

    I am pissed off at MLB for suing a fantasy legue website.

    -sarcasm alert-

    Actually, I am pissed of at MLB for promoting one of the most BORING games on earth. I have heard baseball claimed as NOT a sport, but a pasttime, and ranks right up their with Golf, Tennis, and Nascar racing as one of the most wasted uses of television resources in history.

    The bottom line is all a fantasy legue site needs to do is generate random logos and player names and stats, after all, it is a fantasy, its not a Factual Baseball Legue.

    But, I will stand in the large crowd of people who collectively don't care what the outcome of this will be.

     

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  13.  
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    Brad Eleven, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 8:24am

    Re: Owners are greedy

    Yes, they must be, since they're obviously listening to their lawyers instead of their fans.

    Reminds me of something else... can't quite put my finger on it... something leadership at the highest levels ignoring the people whose revenue they depend on in favor of listening to their close, trusted advisers who are even more out of touch than the actual leaders.

    Oh, well. I'm sure it will come to me later. Meanwhile, I continue to be amused (at best) by the way the world is so far ahead of any large organization's policies.

     

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  14.  
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    dataguy, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 8:24am

    The lawyers are paid for, so use them

    Granted greed is a big part of this. I think another key aspect is that they have expensive lawyers on retainer. So since they have already paid for them why not let them loose on anyone that isn't likely to fight back. I bet that MLB was very surprised that the fantasy leagues managed to fund a legal defense.

     

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  15.  
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    cycle003, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 8:29am

    corporate greed

    This entire ordeal is just another example of corporate greed gone too far. It’s hard to side with someone who is so blatantly out-of-touch with reality and their customer base. However, I do believe that official team logos and other legitimate trademark/copyright materials should be licensed. Fortunately, the logos, etc. are not needed to run a fantasy league.

    I have essentially boycotted spending money on professional sports with the exception of an occasional overpriced ticket to attend a game. MLB and the MLBPA are alienating the fan base with all their greed, and I hope more fans will show them that they cannot survive without our $$.

     

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  16.  
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    chris (profile), Aug 10th, 2006 @ 8:45am

    everything costs millions of dollars

    n solo said: they always seem to want to say that the decisions will cost pro sports so many millions of dollars

    careless actions cost this country millions of dollars every day. failing to watch a commercial costs broadcasters millions of dollars. not wearing you seatbelt costs millions of dollars. everytime teenagers have sex it costs us, the tax payers, millions of dollars.

    sarcastic posts to websites cost legitimate posters millions of dollars. how much is a gallon of gas today? you guessed it: millions of dollars.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 8:51am

    Re:

    You've added a lot with your opinion on this topic. Thank you, it really helped illuminate the intellectual property rights in discussion.

     

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  18.  
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    The Man, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 9:10am

    Losers

    Only losers do fantasy baseball. It only makes sense that losers would try to stop it. Hey losers, you don't really own a team. Go to a Star Trek expo or something instead. Losers.

     

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  19.  
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    David Graham, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 9:45am

    MLB

    Lately I have been concerned with their ethics. I tried canceling my account in May. They have no way of doing it in their system. The FAQ has it hidden. The FAQ states send an email or call. I didn't want the time and hassle of waiting in some queue so I sent the email. They have billed me twice since I cancelled I just found out.

     

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  20.  
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    AMP, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 9:50am

    Perfect

    This is great. Old American past time (baseball) engaging in new American oast time (litigation)

    Maybe we could have trading cards for lawyers.
    Stats on the back could be wins/losses, objection %s, asshole rantings...

    Instead of gum each pack of trading cards could come with a tube of KY and a rubber glove.

     

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  21.  
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    Know it all, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 9:57am

    Bud Selig, a.k.a Mr. Moron

    I can say first hand from being in a fantasy football league that I watch more NFL than I ever would have otherwise. I also see more commercials than I ever would have and who knows...maybe I bought something because of it. I would certainly think that the same would hold true for basbeball. Bud Selig (MLB Commissioner) is just as out of touch as he has always been. The game is struggling enough for viewership...they don't need more bad publicity (Barry Bonds, roid-head).

     

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  22.  
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    Terry Smith, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 10:00am

    Re: agreeing with a statement made

    I'd agree- if I could read the article. I'm running firefox and NoScript, I take cookies and after SEVENTEEN attempts to get past the Westin Inn commercial I gave up.

     

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  23.  
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    Insaniac, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 11:36am

    Pro Baseball is worthless

    all professional athletes are overpaid for the skilled labor they provide which entertains us all.....but professional baseball players really seem to want to rub that in. the baseball strikes really opened my eyes to all of this and this dick move by the baseball bigwigs just seem to eliminate any doubts.

    Baseball as a professional sport sucks. I have more fun going to minor league games than major league games and no one enjoys watching pro ball on tv. Pro baseball players all suck crotch and use performance enhancing drugs to maximize their home runs. It's stupid.

    Bringing it back to the article, fantasy leagues seem to encourage the general public to watch the sport more closely so they know the stats of each player and they know the points they accumulate in a given game. How could that possibly be bad for baseball?

    I think Bud Selig has gotten his hands on what the music industry has been smoking. They both seem intent on destroying their already dwindling fan/customer base.

    Why don't we boycott all pro baseball games until the only option left is to fire all of the freakishly moronic people at the top along with all the pro players and allow people who would really appreciate it play the game, like AAA players.

     

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  24.  
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    AMP, Aug 10th, 2006 @ 12:07pm

    Re: Pro Baseball is worthless

    I would generally agree with you. Only problem is that most of the players in AAA ball are also taking performance enhancing drugs. It permiates the sport from top to bottom.

     

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  25.  
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    Nathan Kully, Aug 11th, 2006 @ 11:58am

    Baseball is under the most heat

    The reason baseball is reacting this way is because they are under the most heat out of every sport because of the steroid allegations. The worst part of the allegations is baseball doens't know how to react when records are broken and steroids are involved. Do we reject those stats or are they still record breakers?

    These decisions have put the MLB under a lot of pressure and fantasy baseball just hits the spot of skepticism. Fantasy baseball is all about stats, and since that is one of the difficult issues going on these days, it makes sense that the league would react like this.

     

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  26.  
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    Mr. Anonymous, Jun 18th, 2007 @ 11:09pm

    The baseball owners have to pay big bucks to the players so that they can exploit them to make even bigger bucks. Here you come along and want to make bucks off the players' names for nothing! No wonder they are annoyed.

     

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