by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 16th 2007 3:44pm
Major League Baseball has been tilting at windmills for years, claiming ownership of facts -- even though facts cannot be covered by copyright. This resulted in a lawsuit over whether or not companies that provide fantasy baseball services online needed to pay MLB for a license to use player's names and stats. While such licenses have been very lucrative for MLB over the years, one popular fantasy baseball company, CBC, decided to stop paying the license and keep offering the service -- which resulted in the lawsuit. It didn't take long for the courts to tell MLB that it doesn't own facts and anyone is free to use stats and player names. Of course, rather than realizing that fantasy baseball helps promote the real thing, bringing in a lot more money to the league, MLB could only focus on the short term licenses it was about to lose, and appealed. This was a waste of everyone's time, because the law is quite clear and an appeals court has now ruled (again) that Major League Baseball does not own the names and data associated with the game and anyone is free to use that factual information for other things, such as fantasy baseball games. It's highly likely that the folks at MLB will appeal again, though it's equally likely that they'll get smacked down again. MLB had shifted strategies as these cases wore on, trying to get away from focusing on ownership of facts and claiming it was more about the "right to publicity," but the appeals court ruled that a right to publicity does not trump the First Amendment.
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