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View Full Version : MLB trying to Copyright Stats, continued



GullyFoyle
06-15-2007, 12:58 PM
Some of you may remember that last year MLB was sued for trying to copyright players stats in order to force fantasy leagues to pay fees.


MLB... "argues that through an agreement with the player's union, it alone has the right to use or permit the use of the player's names and likenesses. As statistics are such an integral part of baseball, they are an extension of the player's likeness: few people talk about Jim Thome's face, but his batting average is all-important to baseball fans. Therefore, in the eyes of MLB, the unlicensed CBC should be stopped from running fantasy leagues based on MLB stats."


Link (http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060522-6888.html)



In august the court made the following ruling:


A federal judge threw MLB a curveball yesterday, ruling that CBC Distribution (and other fantasy leagues) has every right to use game stats and player likenesses. In her ruling, Judge Mary Ann Medler found that the First Amendment takes precedence over MLB's "right of publicity." Since the stats that fantasy sites use are readily available in newspapers and online, they are not the exclusive property of MLB.

Link (http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20060809-7456.html)


Now MLB is back in Appeals court:


In announcing plans to appeal the case, MLB decided that focusing on the stats was the wrong way to go. "We've agreed that the stats and names are in the public domain," MLB Advanced Media spokesman Gallagher said after the ruling. "But when you start to use team's logos and other images as CBC did, you need a license, it's that simple."

Instead, MLB's lawyers once again made the argument that publicity rights were of paramount concern, according to the AP. One of MLB's attorneys said that a fantasy league using names and stats without permission was analogous to a company printing posters or coffee mugs with pictures of players on them without permission. The judges appeared to be skeptical of MLB's arguments. "MLB is like a public religion. Everyone knows (the players') names and what they look like," opined U.S. Judge Morris Arnold. "This is just part of being an American, isn't it?"

Link (http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20070614-mlb-tries-to-convince-appeals-court-that-names-and-stats-are-copyrightable.html)


I'm not sure how many have been watching, but MLB is upset that people are making money with "their" statistics. Now that they have conceded that stats are in the public domain it sounds like they are saying you can use the stats but you can't use the players names or likenesses.

If this is a dupe thread feel free to remove. But I thought this was an interesting legal battle. When does public celebrity cause names and likenesses to enter into the public domain.

Some of RZ's legal experts can probably put more light on the subject but it looks like MLB is going to have a tough argument on their hands.

RedsMan3203
06-15-2007, 01:35 PM
I don't understand why MLB would be doing this.... Its rather stupid to me...

Because if they get to "own" their stats, and no one else gets to use them... Then they are going to lose ALOT more money when people stop watching the game, and stop going to it.

If they think they are losing money now, wait till they get their way....

Falls City Beer
06-15-2007, 01:48 PM
Intellectual property law is simply absurd in most cases.

registerthis
06-15-2007, 01:58 PM
Let MLB try to wring additional dollars out of the TV, newspaper and radio outlets that continually publish names, teams, and player statistics. because I fail to see a difference from what, for instance, the Washington Post sports section is doing, and what a fantasy baseball league is doing.

MLB just looks ridiculous in this case--worse than the RIAA suing grandma.

smith288
06-15-2007, 01:58 PM
I dont care what MLB thinks is unfair. They are exempt from a monopoly. Any ruling should really be looked at with that in mind.

traderumor
06-15-2007, 01:59 PM
I'm sure the $ impact must be significant. I can't see them carrying on this argument for a matter of principle.

registerthis
06-15-2007, 02:01 PM
I'm sure the $ impact must be significant. I can't see them carrying on this argument for a matter of principle.

I don't see them carrying on *any* argument as a matter of principle.

redsmetz
06-15-2007, 02:09 PM
Interestingly, the NCAA is running down a similar path as told this NY Times article about a blogger for the Louisville Courier-Journal doing a live blog of the Louisville Oklahoma State baseball game. This is similar to what Trent does on his blog. The NCAA argues that it violates their agreements with reporters and they're considering it a "live broadcast" subject to their approval. I think they're missing the boat too (and to boot, they cutting off their nose to spite their face as the blog allows real-time interest in their product. Very short sighted.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/14/sports/baseball/14blogs.html?ex=1339560000&en=777303b325f65ee5&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

I think MLB's being greedy and they ultimately risk losing their anti-trust immunity, I think.

smith288
06-15-2007, 02:17 PM
Interestingly, the NCAA is running down a similar path as told this NY Times article about a blogger for the Louisville Courier-Journal doing a live blog of the Louisville Oklahoma State baseball game. This is similar to what Trent does on his blog. The NCAA argues that it violates their agreements with reporters and they're considering it a "live broadcast" subject to their approval. I think they're missing the boat too (and to boot, they cutting off their nose to spite their face as the blog allows real-time interest in their product. Very short sighted.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/14/sports/baseball/14blogs.html?ex=1339560000&en=777303b325f65ee5&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

I think MLB's being greedy and they ultimately risk losing their anti-trust immunity, I think.
So they think we arent allowed to report our experiences regarding the venue while you are there? Niiice.

BCubb2003
06-15-2007, 02:25 PM
The game threads would be at risk, if they could find any evidence that we were actually following the game.

I wonder if we'll have to start speaking in code, referring to Abner Dean, Edward Carnation and Kurt Grimley Jr.

smith288
06-15-2007, 02:33 PM
The game threads would be at risk, if they could find any evidence that we were actually following the game.

I wonder if we'll have to start speaking in code, referring to Abner Dean, Edward Carnation and Kurt Grimley Jr.
"Fantastic bowl ole' chap. That finishes off the set as each batsman is dismissed..."

Yachtzee
06-15-2007, 02:39 PM
Once again, another example of public figures and big piles of cash that stand behind them trying to abuse IP law to wring more cash out of the public. If you stage a public event in a place of public accommodation, you can't go back and try to reclaim control over the publicity of the event afterwards. I feel that once you do that, the facts concerning the event, including stats and player's likenesses, become part of the public domain.

BCubb2003
06-15-2007, 02:43 PM
Perhaps the fans should sue every time they're shown on the Kiss Cam.

redsmetz
06-15-2007, 02:45 PM
Perhaps the fans should sue every time they're shown on the Kiss Cam.

Especially if your parole officer is there and you've violated your probation!

[caveat: of course, I'm not implying that BCubb2003 has a parole officer!]

Rojo
06-15-2007, 03:13 PM
I wonder if we'll have to start speaking in code, referring to Abner Dean, Edward Carnation and Kurt Grimley Jr.

I've copyrighted those fictitious names. You'll hear from my lawyers.

traderumor
06-15-2007, 03:18 PM
So they think we arent allowed to report our experiences regarding the venue while you are there? Niiice.Not without the express written consent of the NCAA, apparently :p: So, do they start confiscating laptops and cell phones at the door?

Rojo
06-15-2007, 04:25 PM
Intellectual property law is simply absurd in most cases.


Ebay's getting sued over their "Buy It Now" button. That's just silly.

Falls City Beer
06-15-2007, 04:29 PM
Ebay's getting sued over their "Buy It Now" button. That's just silly.

I'm going to copyright the smell of my farts.

Rojo
06-15-2007, 04:30 PM
I'm going to copyright the smell of my farts.

I wouldn't worry about infringement.

Falls City Beer
06-15-2007, 04:32 PM
I wouldn't worry about infringement.

Okay, then.

How about a Pet Rock that smells like my farts?

Rojo
06-15-2007, 04:38 PM
Okay, then.

How about a Pet Rock that smells like my farts?

Not my cup of tea but still a better idea than muscle pants.

traderumor
06-15-2007, 06:38 PM
Okay, then.

How about a Pet Rock that smells like my farts?

I think Odd Lots already has a line.

Unassisted
06-15-2007, 09:17 PM
I have a contrarian view here in that I am rooting for MLB to own the stats or whatever they need to claim ownership of to win this argument. This is because I'm in favor of anything that brings more money to MLB at the corporate level, rather than the team level. Money to MLB floats all of MLB's boats, including the one moored in Cincinnati.

Mainstream sites like Yahoo and ESPN believe there is money to be made from Fantasy Baseball, because they've been in it for years. Why shouldn't MLB get a cut of what those corporations make from a product that is derivative of MLB's product?

UKFlounder
06-15-2007, 10:22 PM
I have a contrarian view here in that I am rooting for MLB to own the stats or whatever they need to claim ownership of to win this argument. This is because I'm in favor of anything that brings more money to MLB at the corporate level, rather than the team level. Money to MLB floats all of MLB's boats, including the one moored in Cincinnati.

Mainstream sites like Yahoo and ESPN believe there is money to be made from Fantasy Baseball, because they've been in it for years. Why shouldn't MLB get a cut of what those corporations make from a product that is derivative of MLB's product?

But how far do you extend that logic? Do newspapers have to pay to pring boxscores? Do local TV channels have to pay for every highlight? What about talkshows & discussion of these games, or any internet site that might have a premium forum/area?

At what point is what those entities do considered "using a derivative of MLB's product" instead of "providing further unpaid-for publicity for that product" or "creating a new area of interest" for that product?

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I imagine some people pay attention to MLB more for their fantasy leagues than they do for any team loyalty. Take away the fantasy games (or increase prices) and do you lose those fans?

That last point may be stretching it a bit, but, even if MLB is technically right somehow, isn't enforcing that sort of like biting the hand that feeds them, especially if they expand their view into areas like boxscores, etc?

That's more of a devil's advocate approach than any concrete thoughts I have, but I do think the core question of "using MLB's info" vs "providing/creating further interest in MLB's product" is worth discussion

Unassisted
06-15-2007, 11:15 PM
But how far do you extend that logic? Do newspapers have to pay to pring boxscores? Do local TV channels have to pay for every highlight? What about talkshows & discussion of these games, or any internet site that might have a premium forum/area?

At what point is what those entities do considered "using a derivative of MLB's product" instead of "providing further unpaid-for publicity for that product" or "creating a new area of interest" for that product?

It should be up to MLB to decide where to draw that line. They'll know which hands are feeding from them and which hands are picking their pocket. The newspaper business is withering on the vine. My local daily paper just dropped 90% of its stock market listings from the daily edition for cost reasons. I can imagine that if the cost became prohibitive for them to run MLB box scores, they might make the same choice.


Perhaps I'm wrong, but I imagine some people pay attention to MLB more for their fantasy leagues than they do for any team loyalty. Take away the fantasy games (or increase prices) and do you lose those fans?

I don't want the fantasy games to go away and I doubt that MLB does either or they'd be making a different argument. I just want their corporate captains to give MLB a piece of the profit the games generate. Radio and TV pay for rights to depict MLB's product in a unique fashion, so why shouldn't Yahoo and ESPN.com? If the rights to fantasy stats turn out to have a prohibitively high price, then MLB.com could become the sole source for fantasy games, just like MLBAM is the only place online to listen to and watch MLB games.

Yachtzee
06-16-2007, 12:36 AM
I have a contrarian view here in that I am rooting for MLB to own the stats or whatever they need to claim ownership of to win this argument. This is because I'm in favor of anything that brings more money to MLB at the corporate level, rather than the team level. Money to MLB floats all of MLB's boats, including the one moored in Cincinnati.

Mainstream sites like Yahoo and ESPN believe there is money to be made from Fantasy Baseball, because they've been in it for years. Why shouldn't MLB get a cut of what those corporations make from a product that is derivative of MLB's product?

If you think the buck stops at fantasy baseball, you'd be very short-sighted. If MLB can claim ownership of stats, names, and likenesses, then it would probably spell the doom of Redszone and other sites like it. If MLB has a copyright in stats and players' names, then posting Adam Dunn's BA and K totals (or even OBP and OPS ;)) without permission would be infringement. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), MLB could then send a "take-down" notice to Boss and GIK's host, warning them of the infringing use and requiring them to take down the infringing use. One day you'd come to Redszone and there would just be a message telling you the site has notified that infringing content was posted to the site (just about every thread) and has been removed. Well maybe that's a little simplistic, but that's the risk you run into if you expand copyright to include facts.

Intellectual Property law is supposed to protect creative endeavors so that those who spend the time creating a book or a play or a painting can profit from it for a reasonable amount of time. Facts are not a creative endeavor. Videotape of a player hitting a home run could be considered "creative" in nature, but the fact that a run was recorded is not.

The other issue you have is how far can you take "publicity" rights. If Barry Bonds or MLB can control the use of his name and likeness in a fantasy baseball site, does that mean they could control his name and likeness to prevent websites critical of him from using his name or likeness? Not likely. First, that would violate the First Amendment. Second, I was always under the impression that "publicity" rights were intended, in the case of public figures, to prevent use that would improperly imply "endorsement" of the use. As no reasonable person would assume that fantasy baseball websites, or any other website, magazine or newspaper that publishes players' names, likenesses, and stats means endorsement of that site, magazine, or newspaper, I don't think MLB has a leg to stand on.

Unassisted
06-16-2007, 12:49 AM
If you think the buck stops at fantasy baseball, you'd be very short-sighted. If MLB can claim ownership of stats, names, and likenesses, then it would probably spell the doom of Redszone and other sites like it. If MLB has a copyright in stats and players' names, then posting Adam Dunn's BA and K totals (or even OBP and OPS ;)) without permission would be infringement. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), MLB could then send a "take-down" notice to Boss and GIK's host, warning them of the infringing use and requiring them to take down the infringing use. One day you'd come to Redszone and there would just be a message telling you the site has notified that infringing content was posted to the site (just about every thread) and has been removed. Well maybe that's a little simplistic, but that's the risk you run into if you expand copyright to include facts.

I don't buy the slippery slope argument because I trust that MLB will know where to draw the line. Here's an example... the live-blogging of games that C. Trent does is against MLB's live-depiction rules which are posted in MLB pressboxes. And yet C.Trent hasn't been tossed out of a pressbox or told to stop it, unlike his counterpart (http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/%7Er/UsatodaycomCollegeSports-TopStories/%7E3/123958431/2007-06-11-reporter-ejected_N.htm) in Louisville who dared to do that at the College World Series.

BCubb2003
06-16-2007, 01:10 AM
Here's more than you want to know about previous similar cases, from wire services to pagers to gamecasts.

http://www.jolt.unc.edu/Vol5_I2/web/MacDonald%20v5i2.htm

The issue will probably come down to: Does MLB own the facts that the games produce. Courts have not ruled that way before, but MLB keeps trying.

Yachtzee
06-16-2007, 01:18 AM
I don't buy the slippery slope argument because I trust that MLB will know where to draw the line. Here's an example... the live-blogging of games that C. Trent does is against MLB's live-depiction rules which are posted in MLB pressboxes. And yet C.Trent hasn't been tossed out of a pressbox or told to stop it, unlike his counterpart (http://rssfeeds.usatoday.com/%7Er/UsatodaycomCollegeSports-TopStories/%7E3/123958431/2007-06-11-reporter-ejected_N.htm) in Louisville who dared to do that at the College World Series.

You don't think MLB.com would love to have all the web traffic from discussion boards in-house? Why let boards like Redszone draw fans away from the MLB.com discussion boards? They sell ad space over there, so competition from other message boards draws visitors away and negatively impacts their ad revenue. They could easily use it to shut down all online discussion groups and message boards that aren't a part of MLB Advanced Media.

Slippery slope is very much a concern here. No one thought the RIAA would sue young children for downloading a few songs off the internet, but they have. Copyright law is seeing a great deal of abuse right now. I'd question the motives of anyone seeking to expand copyright, because if you don't, you may end up with a situation where fair use is a thing of the past.

mth123
06-16-2007, 07:19 AM
I don't buy the slippery slope argument because I trust that MLB will know where to draw the line.


Agreeing to anything because you trust major league baseball is like crossing the street without looking both ways. This especially true when there is money involved.

IMO the choice to "look the other way" during the steroid era is a recent example of how the current MLB regime can't be trusted to do the right thing when there is a profit to be made. The only reason MLB wouldn't carry this to extremes is if a logical case can be made that it will hurt profits.

This revenue will also become a point of contention with the union IMO. OTOH, it may unite both the players and the owners to go after this revenue so that they can split it.

Unassisted
06-16-2007, 02:32 PM
You don't think MLB.com would love to have all the web traffic from discussion boards in-house? Why let boards like Redszone draw fans away from the MLB.com discussion boards? They sell ad space over there, so competition from other message boards draws visitors away and negatively impacts their ad revenue. They could easily use it to shut down all online discussion groups and message boards that aren't a part of MLB Advanced Media.

Slippery slope is very much a concern here. No one thought the RIAA would sue young children for downloading a few songs off the internet, but they have. Copyright law is seeing a great deal of abuse right now. I'd question the motives of anyone seeking to expand copyright, because if you don't, you may end up with a situation where fair use is a thing of the past.

I don't buy that side of the slippery slope, either. You don't give MLB enough credit. They know that if they bottle up team discussion and fantasy games inside their own walled garden, the stakes will be ridiculously high and they'd have to do all of the work and do it well.

Remember that the commissioner spent most of his professional career selling cars. He knows the value of getting a message out about his product, but more than anything else, he also believes in the value of a tightly-controlled marketplace. By licensing stats on a fee-based system, MLB could let just enough water out of the hose to keep the garden watered and avoid paying for water that goes into the neighbors' gardens, unless the neighbors pay. I am in no way reading this legal action as an indication that MLB wants to have the only garden in town.

Yachtzee
06-16-2007, 11:16 PM
I don't buy that side of the slippery slope, either. You don't give MLB enough credit. They know that if they bottle up team discussion and fantasy games inside their own walled garden, the stakes will be ridiculously high and they'd have to do all of the work and do it well.

Remember that the commissioner spent most of his professional career selling cars. He knows the value of getting a message out about his product, but more than anything else, he also believes in the value of a tightly-controlled marketplace. By licensing stats on a fee-based system, MLB could let just enough water out of the hose to keep the garden watered and avoid paying for water that goes into the neighbors' gardens, unless the neighbors pay. I am in no way reading this legal action as an indication that MLB wants to have the only garden in town.

You do realize you are talking about a group of people who had to cancel the World Series, a World Series that has been held in times of war and has even survived an earthquake, simply because millionaires and billionaires couldn't decide how to equitably divide the massive piles of cash they make playing a game? MLB has a history of being penny wise and pound foolish. I don't have so much faith in them knowing when to draw the line when it comes to foregoing short-terms gains in favor of long-term growth and public goodwill. Even just recently they just about shot themselves in the butt with the MLB Extra Innings deal. It took public outcry and political pressure to get them to recognize the short-sightedness of the deal they were negotiating.

Unassisted
06-16-2007, 11:48 PM
You do realize you are talking about a group of people who had to cancel the World Series, a World Series that has been held in times of war and has even survived an earthquake, simply because millionaires and billionaires couldn't decide how to equitably divide the massive piles of cash they make playing a game? MLB has a history of being penny wise and pound foolish. I don't have so much faith in them knowing when to draw the line when it comes to foregoing short-terms gains in favor of long-term growth and public goodwill. Even just recently they just about shot themselves in the butt with the MLB Extra Innings deal. It took public outcry and political pressure to get them to recognize the short-sightedness of the deal they were negotiating.

That's an example that has more to do with hard feelings than revenue. This commissioner has seen a 6-fold increase in revenue during his tenure. Baseball was making about $1 billion/year when Bud ascended to the commissioner's office and now it's making $6 billion/year.

Bud may look like a bull in a china shop when left to his own devices on PR, but he has made baseball's money tree into a giant redwood.

Yachtzee
06-17-2007, 12:09 AM
That's an example that has more to do with hard feelings than revenue. This commissioner has seen a 6-fold increase in revenue during his tenure. Baseball was making about $1 billion/year when Bud ascended to the commissioner's office and now it's making $6 billion/year.

Bud may look like a bull in a china shop when left to his own devices on PR, but he has made baseball's money tree into a giant redwood.

Is that because of or in spite of Bud's leadership? I can't help but think that a lot of revenue growth during Bud's tenure is a result of taking advantage of externalities, such as the growth of the internet, cable, and satellite, leading to greater competition for broadcast rights, rather than any kid of business acumen exhibited by those running MLB.

The two areas he's succeeded on his own accord, as I see it, is in bringing about a consensus on realignment and interleague play. And personally, I'd dump interleague play in favor of a balanced schedule that would give the Reds more games against old rivals like the Dodgers, Giants and Braves. Other than that, he strikes me as a "right place, right time" kind of guy when it comes to success (increased revenues) and a PR disaster when it comes to presenting ideas that appear to be under his own leadership (Labor relations, contraction, All-Star games, Extra Innings negotiations, steroids).

jojo
06-17-2007, 12:40 PM
Intellectual property law is simply absurd in most cases.

HIGH FIVE

vaticanplum
06-17-2007, 01:00 PM
I wonder how the players feel about their names and personal statistics being copyrighted, and whether MLB has bothered to ask them or consider what actions they might take if it were to happen.

If I were a baseball player, I'd be none too happy about an organization attempting to copyright my personal achievements. Would I be subject to legal action if I signed my name and noted my 300th career win right after it? I can't really think of anything comparable in another profession. That's pretty absurd. Seems like some kind of personal infringment there. Not to mention the potential mess of the fact that I'm sure there are hundreds of Michael Youngs and Alex Rodriguezes running around the country.