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Thread: Baseball statistics: history or property?

  1. #1
    Please come again pedro's Avatar
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    Baseball statistics: history or property?

    Fantasy league company sues for free rights to batting averages

    ST. LOUIS, Missouri (AP) -- 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.

    Working mostly over the Internet, CBC and its hundreds of competitors provide player profiles and process reams of daily data for fans who pretend to be team owners, drafting players for imaginary squads and using statistics to determine a winner at the season's end.

    While some leagues are just for fun, others award large cash prizes, and operating them has become a multimillion-dollar industry.

    CBC, which has run the CDM Fantasy Sports leagues since 1992, sued baseball last year after it took over the rights to the statistics and profiles from the Major League Baseball Players Association and declined to grant the company a new license.

    Before the shift, CBC had been paying the players' association 9 percent of gross. But in January 2005, Major League Baseball announced a $50 million agreement with the players' association giving baseball exclusive rights to license statistics.

    Despite being turned down for the new license, CBC has continued to operate leagues during the legal dispute.

    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.

    Jim Gallagher, a spokesman for Major League Baseball Advanced Media, baseball's Internet arm, declined comment on the lawsuit, scheduled for a hearing this summer in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, Missouri.

    Ben Clark, a St. Louis attorney who specializes in intellectual property rights, said a win by Major League Baseball could "send a shudder through the entire fantasy industry," he said.

    On the other hand, he said, it stands to lose the rights to any royalties for use of statistics.

    "You just wonder whether it's a fight Major League Baseball wants to have," he said.
    Get your nunchucks and the keys to your dad's car. I know where we can get a gun

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  3. #2
    Please come again pedro's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    FWIW, I think stats are history and not property.
    Get your nunchucks and the keys to your dad's car. I know where we can get a gun

  4. #3
    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    Quote Originally Posted by pedro
    FWIW, I think stats are history and not property.
    I think they're stupid and are misleading, plus about "10" of you on this board spend too much time thinking about them.

  5. #4
    Haunted by walks
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    You can have the batting averages for free but the OPS will cost you extra.

  6. #5
    Charlie Brown All-Star IslandRed's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    I'm surprised this is still not a settled issue in baseball. The NBA and various stat companies fought about this in court several years ago, although the argument there was over real-time stats. While I'm generally of the stats-as-history mind, real-time is a different matter, as that can amount to a de facto broadcast (and undercut the ability of the teams/leagues to sell broadcast rights). But trying to preserve those rights in perpetuity, as baseball seems to be trying to do, is too far in the other direction.
    Not all who wander are lost

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    Big Red Machine RedsBaron's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    Major league baseball's greed evidently knows no limits.
    "Hey...Dad. Wanna Have A Catch?" Kevin Costner in "Field Of Dreams."

  8. #7
    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    You have to be kidding me..stats are property??

    What's next? Will you have to pay a fee if you mention them?
    Go Gators!

  9. #8
    THAT'S A FACT JACK!! GAC's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsBaron
    Major league baseball's greed evidently knows no limits.
    Ya got that right! I'm waiting for them to start trying to "muscle in" on the action, and the money to be made, in Little League around this country because team's uniforms and names are modelled after ML teams, and a kid has Bond's number on his jersey.
    "panic" only comes from having real expectations

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    The Lineups stink. KronoRed's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    Marty "Well Lopez hit 3...*kick from the lawyer present*..Ahem..he hit pretty good last year"


    Go Gators!

  11. #10
    Member Ron Madden's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    We can see the Police report of Ryan Freels arrest for free
    but they want us to pay to see his stats?

    That's messed up!

  12. #11
    You know his story Redsland's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    Quote Originally Posted by BCubb2003
    You can have the batting averages for free but the OPS will cost you extra.
    Makes all the routine posts.

  13. #12
    Never say Nevermore marcshoe's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    Quote Originally Posted by BCubb2003
    You can have the batting averages for free but the OPS will cost you extra.
    That's fine, as long as on-base percentage and slugging are also free.
    No Victims, by me

    The rest is drama.


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  14. #13
    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    This isn't as straightforward as people think

    I made a pretty lengthy post on this topic at David Pinto's blog (baseballmusings.com), so for simplicity's sake, I'll copy and paste portions of that here:

    I'm a law student in Boston. I discussed this case with my Intellectual Property professor, and was surprised to hear that he believes MLB (along with their strangebedfellow in this case, the MLBPA) is going to win.

    While I'm no fan of the theory of "right to publicity," it is widely recognized by US Courts. Example: it would probably be illegal for me to sell T shirts that said "Tiger Woods" with a bullet point list of his championships. The rationale is that the athlete has created his personal profile through hard work, and that he should be rewarded for that hard work by having monopoly power over merchandise containing his personal profile. (Again, I don't like this holding in the law... but it's the law).

    If MLB/MLBPA loses this case, then I would imagine Strat-o-Matic could stop paying royalties to the player's association. Think about it: Strat doesn't use player photos (that I know of), it merely uses "statistical profiles" associated with a player's name. Strat has been paying for the right to do this for years. The same is true of some "text-baseed" video games, where no player images or likenesses appear in the game.

    MLB/MLBPA are not arguing that they own the statistics. They are arguing that each player has the sole right to exploit things that are associated with his person. But the "players" have assigned all of their rights to MLBPA, and MLBPA temporarily assigned all "fantasy" rights to MLB. So the MLB is arguing that the commissioner's office (for now) has the right to pick and choose who gets a fantasy license and how much it should cost.

    Quick legal background for the lawyers: MLB was CBC's target in the declaratory action. MLB then counterclaimed. MLBPA moved to join as an intervenor party (which was allowed).

    In short, I would love for MLB to lose this case, because it would keep fantasy games cheaper. It would also likely reduce barriers to entry in the video game market. If MLB wins (and prevails in subsequent appeals), it will have a legal mandate to become a classic monopolist in the fantasy market - decreasing the supply of games, yet raising prices.

    But unfortunately, this is a close call.

    Prediction: regardless of whoever wins at the district court level, the other party will appeal, CBC will run out of money, the case will settle, and will be vacated.

    [later - someone asked how my professor could possibly think that MLB would win, in light of the "Motorola" case]

    The NBA/Motorola case was about control of "real time" updates, not about a player's right to publicity.

    IIRC, the NBA's theory was that it had a property right to the descriptions and accounts of the game. The NBA tried to make the claim that the Motorola updates were analagous to some guy sitting in the stands and broadcasting the games, without a license. (There actually was a case years ago where some dude used a telescope to look into Forbes Field in Pittsburgh and made his own "pirate" Pirate broacasts). The court didn't buy the analogy. It held that these updates were "news" items, and that people wouldn't choose these real-time updates as a surrogate for watching the game.

    The Motorola case would be more analogous to this case if the PLAYERS had sued.

    There is another case called Morris v. PGA tour, also about real-time updates. The tour could not stop "hole reporters" from providing real-time updates via pagers.

    Also: The Motorola case was a 2nd circuit decision. It is not binding within the 8th Circuit where the CBC case will be heard (in USDC in St. Louis). But it's true that most courts have followed the Motorola decision.

    I agree with those of you who think that MLB is splitting hairs. But, I reiterate that Strat-o-Matic has been paying licensing fees for years for the right to use a player's statistical profile and stick his name next to it. PC simulation games like "Out of the Park" and "Baseball Mogul" use false names, because they fear lawsuits. If MLB loses, there will be a sea change in these markets (for the better, IMO).
    How, then, are those people of the future—who are taking steroids every day—going to look back on baseball players who used steroids? They're going to look back on them as pioneers. They're going to look back at it and say "So what?" - Bill James, Cooperstown and the 'Roids

  15. #14
    Baseball card addict MrCinatit's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    yeah, i don't see any way this can bite them in the butt.
    heck, i can almost picture Selig, desperate for money, auctioning off baseball's most beloved stats on an eBay 99 cent auction.

  16. #15
    Hey Cubs Fans RFS62's Avatar
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    Re: Baseball statistics: history or property?

    They've been talking about this for a while on XM. MLB wants to control all fantasy baseball outlets and a piece of every pie.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
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