MLB Doesn’t Like Others Making Money Off Your Fantasies

    June 2, 2008
    Chris Crum

Fantasy sports are a billion-plus per year industry, which seems to have just dawned on Major League Baseball (MLB) execs.

Fantasy sports, specifically fantasy baseball seem to be as popular as ever even though they’ve been around for something like twenty-five years according to the LA Times.

I had no idea they’d been around so long, but apparently this is how long it has taken for MLB to decide that it doesn’t want to give up the information required for a fantasy league for free.

They have taken CBC Distribution (which runs fantasy leagues) to two courts already, which ruled in favor of CBC, but have decided to appeal to the Surpeme Court, which is expected to decide today whether or not it will hear the case.

The lower courts have ruled in favor of CBC basically based on the concept of free speech. The names of players and their statistics are generally considered public knowledge. They are after all reported in newspapers and other media outlets.

CBC attorney Rudy Telscher is quoted: "When you’re using mass information, it’s protected under the First Amendment."

MLB disagrees however. They feel that this information is their property, particularly when it comes to using it for profit as many fantasy leagues do. They consider the fantasy leagues as games that are using players’ identities.

It reminds me of when EA sports obtained exclusive rights to the NFL and the names of its players so that no other video games could legally contain them. But on the other hand, there’s still Fantasy football. I wonder if the NFL has similar concerns as MLB.

If the Supreme Court decides to hear the case the NFL, NBA, NHL, etc. will surely all be paying close attention, and the outcome of the case will have a tremendous effect on the future of online fantasy sports.

If the fact that companies are profiting off of player information is the biggest concern, maybe free games are not in any jeopardy, which would be good news for the many fans who just play for fun rather than money.

Update: The Supreme Court has rejected the case.