CNN – January 15, 2006:

A company that runs sports fantasy leagues is asking a federal court to decide whether major leaguers’ batting averages and home run counts are historical facts that can be used freely or property that can be sold.

In a lawsuit that could affect the pastime of an estimated 16 million people, CBC Distribution and Marketing wants the judge to stop Major League Baseball from requiring a license to use the statistics.

The company says baseball statistics become historical facts as soon as the game is over, so it shouldn’t have to pay for the right to use them.



  1. RonD says:

    “Major League Baseball has claimed that intellectual property law makes it illegal for fantasy league operators to “commercially exploit the identities and statistical profiles” of big league players.”
    How do physical statistics qualify as intellectual property?

    And the article indicates that CBC applied for a license to use, but was turned down. Sounds like MLB wants to control who can use the stats and how. This is BS.

  2. Boring, useless, B.S.

  3. gquaglia says:

    This is getting out of control. There is no way a statistic is property and if the judge decides that it is, then whats next, game scores, election results, polls, your pants size? Maybe MLB can get together with the MPAA and the RIAA and come up with some kind of DRM for statistics. The madness continues.

  4. garym says:

    I’m not a huge baseball fan, but I do know how to keep score and compile the statistics for any game. I can go to a stadium, but a program, watch the game and keep my own stats. Does this mean that my stats would be property of MLB? I don’t think so!
    I think what’s going to wind up happening is when fans hear about this MLB is going to lose millions of loyal fans. The same would be true of any sport that tries this with its statistics, whether it be NFL, NBA or NHL.
    If I were the Commissioner of Baseball, I would order my legal team to settle this suit immediately, not let it go to court and make sure we have a non-disclosure agreement tied to the settlement.

  5. Mark says:

    A point not covered in the news snippet, CBC has been licensing these stats from the Baseball Players Association for years, a point that I think weakens their case. For whatever reason the Players Association transferred control of these stats to MLB. CBC is looking to continue their past agreement but now with MLB, and MLB said no.

    In my mind MLB either wants more money, and thought this was bargaining, or they want to shut out CBC and start their own MLB branded fantasy leagues.

    Is the whole issue pointless and stupid, you bet it is. But the real issue isn’t whether the stats are property or not, they’re not in my opinion, it’s who will be running the multi-million dollar a year fantasy baseball league industry. That’s what the lawsuit is really about. And as silly as it sounds, I dare anyone to say that if their multi-million dollar business was being cut-off at the knees, most likely to be replaced by someone else doing the exact same thing, that you wouldn’t file a lawsuit yourself. I know I would.

    ~Mark

  6. rus62 says:

    Maybe the cities/states should ask MLB to pay a license fee for using their city’s/states’ name on their logo, use of their name in any telecast, in their statistic, etc? If MLB can license statistics then cities/states should be able to charge MLB a license fee for using their name and they should charge the hell out of them to help pay for the lavish stadiums these leagues want them to build every 15-20 years.

  7. garym says:

    Mark,

    I agree that it appears that MLB is in the process of starting their own fantasy league using their stats. And, since they control the players and stats, one would assume they would provide the best content.

    But, what about the guy who runs a fantasy league at work using purchased software and downloaded stats? Does he now have to pay a fee to download the stats to make his league playable?

    To me this sounds like a serious money grab by MLB (and probably other sports industries if MLB gets away with it.)

    G

  8. Ballenger says:

    Back in the 90s I worked for a sports media “portal” or clearinghouse. The rule of thumb then, was once scores and stats had been released via news outlets, they were public domain and fair game for anyone using them. Stats Inc. (in the case of the MLB, do I need a license to type MLB?) collected this data and it was made available, via our systems and some other channels, to the various television, radio, internet and newspapers operations.

    I suppose the leagues could hold back some stats and brand them “double secret special” stats and claim the existing precedence does not apply. It does seem reasonable that once released to the public, stats become historical facts in the public domain since, well, they put them there.

    By the way, based on our focus groups back them, once end users have to pay for stats they lose interest fast. Or they just e-mail the ONE purchased stat sheet around the planet, so that in about 20 minutes there will be 4 million bootleg stat sheets floating around.

    Sooner or later we can solve this sports marketing dilemma by having a slot for pre-paid entertainment cards installed in our heads and let the end user pick up the tab on a “pay-per-thought” basis.

  9. Jonathan says:

    Hey cool, maybe I can sue the marketing companies for using my IP, you know my name and shopping habits etc…

  10. Brent Wagner says:

    A few years back the NHL or NHLPA tried a similar stunt by going after pools run by charities. If my memory is correct they claimed that the players names couild not be used as this was some sort of trademark violation.

    This died very quickly. But if you let a bunch of weasels who have never played the game run the game you are asking for trouble.

  11. Pete Findlay says:

    Baseball stats are historical facts, no doubt about it.

  12. Jim says:

    My friend worked for a software company that has a contract with the NFL to collect real-time stats at all NFL games. They build a software system to collect the stats including every play, who ran it, yardage gained, etc. and that information is sold by the league to teams, used for fantasy leagues, and sold to news companies like CNN/SI to drive live updates on their web site. It seems to me that someone should have the rights to this information since it costs money to collect and it is worth money to use. Perhaps a distinction between near-real-time stats vs. historical data is required.

  13. Pat says:

    I would suggest that once the event has happened it is in the public domain. For instance you may repeat the entire dialog and scenes from a movie. You couldn’t show the movie itself, but you could relate everything about it.

    Once a play has been made it would become a historical fact and may be repeated. This would not give you any rights to show the actual play or reproductions, but you can tell everyone and his uncle what happened.

    The players do not have any special rights to their name. If they participated in the play, they are part of that fact.

    I don’t see MLB having any legal argument.


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