October 17, 2007

Fantasy Leagues’ Names, Scores are Fair Game

Filed under: law — wseltzer @ 4:22 pm

Fantasy Leagues are fair game, the Eighth Circuit has ruled, affirming C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing’s summary judgment victory over Major League Baseball (which was supported on appeal by a veritable who’s who of professional sports leagues: NFL, NBA, NHL, NASCAR, PGA, WNBA).

The court held the First Amendment trumped MLB players’ rights of publicity claims, particularly given the informational nature of the information CBC used — players’ names and batting and fielding statistics: “it would be a strange law that a person would not have a first amendment right to use information that is available to everyone…. ‘Speech that entertains, like speech that informs, is protected by the First Amendment.’”

Fantasy league players (who may be happier with their own teams at this point than Yankees or Red Sox fans) can thank CBC for pressing ahead with a declaratory judgment action rather than acceding to licensing demands. As CBC co-founder Charlie Wiegert put it to USA Today, “Now other people will question whether they do, or don’t have to pay.”

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