Some of you might remember this thread...
MLB trying to Copyright Stats
Well, I thought I'd post an update since there has been another court ruling.
The following text is from:
While the Colorado Rockies were making headlines with their march to the World Series, Major League Baseball was striking out in a St. Louis courtroom. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has upheld (PDF) a lower court's ruling that player names and stats are not copyrightable in a case that pitted a "renegade" fantasy sports operation against Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association
CBC Distribution and Marketing v. MLB dates back to near the beginning of the 2006 baseball season. CBC had licensed stats and player data from MLB for a decade, but MLB and the MLB Players Association decided to attempt to rein in the number of fantasy sports leagues, signing exclusive deals with larger fantasy sites like ESPN and Sportsline. CBC decided to press on with its own online offerings without MLB's blessing and was promptly sued.
MLB argued that its player names and stats were copyrightable and that CBC—or any other fantasy league—couldn't operate a fantasy baseball league without the blessing of MLB (and that blessing would come in the form of a multimillion-dollar licensing agreement). CBC countered that the data was in the public domain and as such, it had a First Amendment right to use it.
In August 2006, a US District Court sided with CBC, issuing a summary judgment ruling that the First Amendment trumped MLB's right of publicity (which gives celebrities and other public figures some rights over how their likeness is used). "The names and playing records of major league baseball players as used in CBC's fantasy games are not copyrightable," wrote Judge Mary Ann Medler. "Therefore, federal copyright law does not preempt the players' claimed right of publicity."
MLB appealed the decision, and in oral arguments a few months ago, attempted to convince the court that a fantasy league using player data without permission was like a renegade company printing and selling posters of players. In its de novo (essentially starting from scratch) review, the Circuit Court rejected MLB's arguments in a 2-1 decision. "First, the information used in CBC's fantasy baseball games is all readily available in the public domain, and it would be strange law that a person would not have a First Amendment right to use information that is available to everyone," wrote the judges in their opinion.
There's a lot of money at stake here. Fantasy sports have become a multibillion-dollar business with a wide reach (including into the Orbiting HQ, where this writer sits at the top of the Ars staff fantasy football league), and major sports leagues have lucrative licensing deals with larger fantasy sports sites. Should the decision stand—and it appears that MLB has as good a chance of prevailing at this point as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays do of winning the 2008 AL East pennant—it could lead some fantasy sites to refuse to sign new deals with MLB. Why pay millions of dollars for data when you can get it for free?
Major League Baseball did not immediately respond to Ars Technica's request for comment on this story.