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Thread: Who owns RBI's?

  1. #1
    Redsmetz redsmetz's Avatar
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    Who owns RBI's?

    From this morning's NY Times comes this editorial about MLB's attempt to limit Fantasy Baseball leagues from freely using the game's statistics. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

    Royalties on R.B.I.'s?

    Published: May 20, 2006

    Baseball statistics are an unlikely subject for a constitutional battle. But a lawsuit between Major League Baseball and a fantasy baseball company over batting averages and on-base percentages is shaping up to be just that. The narrow question is whether Major League Baseball has a right to keep the fantasy baseball company from using statistics from its games. But the suit has much broader implications for free speech. The courts should make it clear that anyone may use baseball statistics.

    The company, CBC Distribution and Marketing, is a leader in fantasy baseball, a $1.5-billion-a-year industry that allows fans to become "owners" of imaginary baseball teams. Participants "draft" real-life major league players, and compete against similar teams. The teams' performance and the winners are determined by the statistics of actual major league players. Major League Baseball insists that it owns the statistics, and that CBC should pay licensing fees. CBC is suing to establish that it does not have to pay to use the statistics.

    The case pits the "right of publicity" against the First Amendment. Major League Baseball claims that its right of publicity allows it to control and charge for the use of its statistics. But the right of publicity is narrowly limited to commercial exploitation. The classic case is the unauthorized use of a celebrity's photograph in an advertisement.

    Major League Baseball's attempt to stretch the right of publicity is part of a larger trend. Corporations are becoming increasingly aggressive about locking up information. It is the same instinct that led Hollywood studios to push Congress to pass the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998, which added 20 years to every copyright.

    If Major League Baseball is allowed to control the use of its statistics, movie stars could demand compensation from magazines that profile them or put them on the covers. A hero who pulls a child from the path of an out-of-control car could claim that he owns the right of publicity for his act of heroism. But the First Amendment guarantees people the right to discuss public events. A movie star's career trajectory, an act of heroism and a batting average are all facts about the world and the people in it, and belong to all of us.

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  3. #2
    Please come again pedro's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    I think this is BS. MLB doesn't own the statistics of games compiled by outside sources any more than Amtrak owns data concerning whether their trains were on time.
    Get your nunchucks and the keys to your dad's car. I know where we can get a gun

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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    I wish they would do this with OPS. Anyone caught throwing that worthless thing around is immediately imprissoned.
    I'm East of you. Be very very worried. Not quite OBX. But, be worried.

  5. #4
    Member OnBaseMachine's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    Quote Originally Posted by 2001MUgrad
    I wish they would do this with OPS. Anyone caught throwing that worthless thing around is immediately imprissoned.
    Where do these people come from.

  6. #5
    "Let's Roll" TeamBoone's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    Or for Pete's sake! This is unbelievable.

    Look anywhere on the net... Yahoo, ESPN, USA Today, Rotoworld, Baseball Prospectus, and on and on and on. All these sites have stats and some have fantasy baseball leagues. And there are newspapers and books.

    MLB has already succeeded in banning live game broadcasts anywhere but on its site... in my opinion, MLB is greedy. This is ridiculous.

    I wonder when they'll ban average Joe's from keeping score and thus compiling stats for their favorite team(s).
    "Enjoy this Reds fans, you are watching a legend grow up before your very eyes" ... DoogMinAmo on Adam Dunn

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    Member TeamCasey's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    It is dumb. These leagues make baseball more enjoyable to fans. It's like free advertising for MLB. MLB should pay others for promoting baseball.

  8. #7
    Haunted by walks
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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    We'll have to talk in code: How many scores knocked home did Abner Dean have last night with leggers in runsing position?

  9. #8
    post hype sleeper cincinnati chili's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    Even though I hope MLB loses this suit, this is a terrible, terrible summary of the controversy. MLB is NOT arguing that they own the statistics.

    We had a thread about this case on Old Red Guard in January, and here's what I posted:

    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).
    ". . . acquiring J. Blanton from Oakland for, apparently, Bailey/Cueto, Votto and a lesser prospect. I do it in a second . . . The Reds' equation this year is simple: Make Matt Belisle your #3 starter . . . trade for Blanton, win 85 or more, be in the mix all summer." - Paul Daugherty, Feb. 8, 2008

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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    Where do these people come from.
    Aren't questions typically capped with question marks??
    Here's to another record-breaking season from Adam Dunn ...another 40 homeruns (all coming with nothing on the line) and 200 Ks! We Want King Jay!!

  11. #10
    Will post for food BuckeyeRedleg's Avatar
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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    Quote Originally Posted by UGADaddy
    Aren't questions typically capped with question marks??
    Who cares?

    But if we're being picky, it's Marty Brennaman, not Brenneman.

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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    Quote Originally Posted by BuckeyeRedleg
    Who cares?

    But if we're being picky, it's Marty Brennaman, not Brenneman.
    If we are talking about anything related to this years Reds, I'd say use as many E's as you can.
    I'm East of you. Be very very worried. Not quite OBX. But, be worried.

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    Re: Who owns RBI's?

    Quote Originally Posted by TeamBoone
    Or for Pete's sake! This is unbelievable.

    Look anywhere on the net... Yahoo, ESPN, USA Today, Rotoworld, Baseball Prospectus, and on and on and on. All these sites have stats and some have fantasy baseball leagues. And there are newspapers and books.

    MLB has already succeeded in banning live game broadcasts anywhere but on its site... in my opinion, MLB is greedy. This is ridiculous.

    I wonder when they'll ban average Joe's from keeping score and thus compiling stats for their favorite team(s).
    Sites like Yahoo, Espn etc. pay license fees for use of MLB info. Have you ever noticed that ESPN and Yahoo have pix of the players on their website? They are allowed to do this because of their licenses. The company in question is a former licensee that paid MLB for the use of player info. MLB decided to limit the number of licenses from dozens to a few, so they did not renew their license. Ofcourse, for a company whose sole means of revenue is through fantasy sports, this would make it imposible for them to continue operating. Ironically, it was small companies like this that helped jumpstart the fantasy sports industry. Now, companies like MLB not only want their slice of the pie, but they want the entire pie.
    Last edited by NastyBoy; 05-21-2006 at 05:18 AM.
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