MLB defending copyrights for the MLS

The New York Times has a story about Major League Baseball’s lawsuit aledging that use of MLB’s statistics and player names in fantasy leagues is infringing on major league baseball’s mojo (look and feel?):

“What a company like CBC is selling is not nearly a repackaging of statistics,” said Lee Goldsmith, a lawyer for Major League Baseball Advanced Media. “They’re selling and they’re marketing the ability to buy, sell, draft and cut Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols. And part and parcel of the reason that people are willing to pay for that ability is the persona of Jeter, of Rodriguez, of Pujols.”

The Washington DC MLS (MRIS) recently issued a couple of reports urging agents to consider statistics like list price to be copyrightable (Russ doesn’t agree with this analysis, follow the link to see why), but in the world of baseball, the decision has already been handed down:

Major League Baseball Advanced Media is not making a copyright claim to the statistics themselves; a 1997 decision in the United States Court of Appeals involving the National Basketball Association ruled sports statistics to be public-domain facts that do not belong to the leagues.

Perhaps the MRIS should look into hiring the MLB lawyers when they’re through with the case. By that time they’ll be experienced at explaining the difference between statistics and “right of publicity”:

Rather, the central issue concerns celebrities’ ability to control use of their names in commercial ventures, and how this “right of publicity,” which has developed under state common law and statute over the last half-century, may commingle with Constitutional press protections under the First Amendment.

6 thoughts on “MLB defending copyrights for the MLS

  1. I could be wrong … but it looks like the claim in the MLB case is more like a trademark suit than a copyright suit. The ability to use the players’ names. So the attorneys wouldn’t do MRIS any good. In fact, if they supported MRIS, they’d be challenging the Court of Appeals ruling. A good lawyer leaves no stone (read: defensible position) unturned in a multimillion dollar lawsuit.

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