Major League Baseball Still Claiming Ownership Of Game Data

from the can't-copyright-facts dept

Good old Major League Baseball. Back in October we wrote about how they were suddenly claiming that any website that broadcast real-time game info was violating their copyrights and were required to buy a license. Most people laughed this off and pointed to a 1997 ruling against the NBA, where Motorola was told they were allowed to send live game information to pagers. Now, Wired News is running a followup to the original story where MLB claims they know all about the Motorola decision, but believe it only applies to scores. Any other real-time info is their own. Again, I’ll ask the same question I asked when this first came up. If I’m at the game, and I use my mobile phone to report what I see, is that considered “rebroadcasting” the game? What if I’m posting the information to a web site? From MLB’s description, it certainly sounds like it. We’ve discussed this before (just a few posts ago, in fact), but you can’t copyright facts, no matter how much you’d like to. If I see something with my own eyes and report it, I shouldn’t require a “license” from Major League Baseball.

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Comments on “Major League Baseball Still Claiming Ownership Of Game Data”

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Greg S says:

No Subject Given

The NBA vs. Motorola ruling is very clear on this, and mlb is just trying to ignore it.

The key passage in the ruling is “Defendants provide purely factual information which any patron of an NBA game could acquire from the arena without any involvement from the director, cameramen, or others who contribute to the originality of a broadcast. This is not a scenario where defendants reproduced actual excerpts of the broadcasts of NBA games.”

Under this ruling, MLB cannot lay claim to own any facts from the game that a spectator can learn from watching the game, and thus cannot legally interfere with the transmission of such facts.

Thom K. says:

It gets even weirder...

Having produced a hybrid online/CD-ROM Almanac for MLB and Microsoft a few years back, I’ve got some experience with this issue. It gets even worse.

During this project it was discussed that IF you were to sit in the stands with a laptop (or nowadays, a PDA, TabletPC, or even a mobile phone with SMS), and *record* the game stats to be shared with someone else, you were in violation of the copyright. Transmission had nothing to do with it (that’s a whole separate argument as far as MLB is concerned). Oh sure, the paper scorecard is fine – that can’t find it’s way into multiple people’s hands – but heaven forbid you were to (gasp!) e-mail the stats to another person! Everyone else who wasn’t at the game has to wait for the newsmedia to report the data, all paid for by hefty Sportsticker licensing fees for the data streams.

Anecdotally: My project team used to use the same codebase/online services for a similiar NBA almanac at the same time we were producing the discs/service for MLB. We figured out that MLB stands for “Massive Legal Budget”, and NBA = “Nothing But Attorneys”.

eeyore says:

same old same old

Baseball just needs to find new ways to piss off and alienate the fans until the players can get around to having another walkout. Of course baseball also has no problem in letting perenially small market teams like the Brewers go down the toilet as long as the mighty Yankees can spend ten times as much to scoop up all the talent in the league. Until baseball imposes a hard and fair salary cap they’ll continue going down the crapper.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: same old same old

It’s a bit off-topic, but I fail to see how a salary cap would help. Did you watch the playoffs this year? They were stunning and exciting, and it was the small market team that came out ahead.

Meanwhile, it’s not the salary cap that’s the issue, but how teams spend their money. Lots of small market teams received payouts from the Yankees this year, who went *way* over the luxury tax level. Instead of spending that money on players, it’s being pocketed. It has nothing to do with a salary cap and plenty to do with bad management.

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