Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Baseball Appeal; MLB Still Doesn't Get To Own Facts

from the good-news dept

Good news from the Supreme Court this week, as it has decided not to take up Major League Baseball’s appeal over the question of whether it gets to “own” player names and stats. As you may recall, Major League Baseball had created a lucrative side business for itself “licensing” out player names and stats to fantasy baseball providers. This actually made them quite a bit of money, until one of those fantasy baseball companies put two and two together and realized that player names and statistics are public information and not subject to copyright (you can’t copyright “facts”). MLB flipped out at the possibility of losing this revenue stream and sued, claiming ownership of all game data.

As MLB realized that claiming ownership of game data was never going to cut it in court, it changed the story somewhat, saying that it was really about the players’ right of publicity, which also (somehow) included owning their stats. A district court quickly saw through this argument and told MLB that it had no case. Rather than admitting defeat (and recognizing that more widespread use of baseball info should bring more fans into the game), MLB appealed. The appeals court wasted little time in again telling MLB it had no case. But those folks at MLB are nothing if not stubborn. So, they asked the full appeals court to rehear the case and were turned down

So, again, rather than recognizing that perhaps all of these courts (and common sense) had a point, MLB appealed to the Supreme Court, who (as noted) turned them down. If you’re keeping score at home (and, we’re not claiming ownership of the score), that now makes 4 – 0 for the courts over MLB, and I think we’ve pretty much hit the 9th inning, as there are no more appeals. The only thing MLB can hope for now is for a different circuit to somehow (unlikely) come to a different conclusion and the Supreme Court to revisit the issue. But that seems about as likely as, say, the Seattle Mariners somehow coming back to win the World Series this year. Stranger things have happened, but not very often.

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Companies: major league baseball, mlb

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Comments on “Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Baseball Appeal; MLB Still Doesn't Get To Own Facts”

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16 Comments
Cynic says:

I was once dragged to a baseball game by a vendor trying to impress me. Personally I’d rather watch paint dry.

But getting back on topic, it sounds like MLB is living in a fantasy world. Does the number of times a movie star attends an annual event with or without a date amount to that star’s right of publicity? So the actor is supposed to say: “How dare you mention what I do in public…you have to buy that from me…even if you and everyone else sees me do it!!!” What a crock. And what lunatics the MLB folks must be for thinking any court at all would follow that line of reasoning (and calling it reasoning is being way too kind).

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Re Several Points

Mike M: “(and, we’re not claiming ownership of the score)”

lol, awesome.

AC #7: “Well that won’t work, God’s a hockey fan.”

Also lol. I am loving the humor in this thread.

Re #8 Thomas
That will probably work. Just look at the Canadian DMCA a couple blog posts down. It is working for them. And we know it works here as well. $$ = laws passed by bribed “representatives”

Anonymous Coward says:

Bit of a nitpick here, but the fantasy baseball site actually brought MLB to court first, seeking a declaratory judgment. Basically, they were pretty sure they were going to get sued over this, so they decided to sue first, asking a court to rule that what they were doing wasn’t against the law. While it’s still David v Goliath no matter who sued first, I think the site should definitely be given credit for being aggressive in themselves.

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