Baseball Still Insists It Owns Facts
from the let's-try-this-again dept
For years, we’ve noted that Major League Baseball seems to have a problem understanding basic copyright laws. MLB tried to say that it was illegal for anyone to offer real time data concerning games, even though you cannot copyright facts. In a similar case from nearly a decade ago, the NBA lost a lawsuit to Motorola, saying that there was no violation of copyright when Motorola sent basketball scores to pagers. However, MLB came back and said that argument only applied to scores, and not any other data. This is, of course, ridiculous. Data, such as statistics or a straight description of what’s happening on the field is a fact which simply cannot be copyrighted. However, that’s not stopping MLB — and the further they push this, the bigger the risk that they lose some of their huge contracts. The latest lawsuit has to do with online fantasy leagues. MLB, in its short-sighted non-wisdom decided not to grant one fantasy baseball site the right to use MLB statistics. The company decided to do so anyway, leading to the latest lawsuit. Of course, if MLB loses, it means that no fantasy sites will have to pay — and it raises a question about baseball video games as well. A year ago, MLB granted a mostly-exclusive license to Take-Two, for it to publish video games based on real MLB information. If the organization loses this fantasy case, some video game firms may claim that as long as they just offer “factual” information within their games, they should be able to do so without a license from MLB. Of course, the silliest part of all of this is that this move seems much more likely to hurt MLB than help it. Things like fantasy baseball have helped to rejuvenate the sport by building up a lot more interest in the sport. Trying to force every online fantasy league to pay up to them is doing more harm than good, cutting off one of the avenues to build up more fans (who will spend a ton on MLB products over a lifetime) in an effort to get a few extra dollars up front. It goes back to the issue of jealousy, and one organization being upset that another is making its product even more valuable, without paying up first.