Fantasy Firm Battles Baseball Over Statistics
“Like no other corner of American popular culture, baseball communicates in numbers. From .406 (Ted Williams’s 1941 batting average) to 755 (Hank Aaron’s record home run total) to countless digits bandied about water coolers every morning, statistics convey ideas and images that, even overnight, become inseparable from the players to whom they belong.
“This relationship between players and numbers, so often romanticized, is now being stripped to its skeleton in a lawsuit with considerably wider ramifications. While the dispute focuses on fantasy baseball — in which millions of fans compete against one another by assembling rosters of real-life major leaguers with the best statistics — a real legal question has arisen: Who owns that connection of name and number when it is used for such a commercial purpose?
“The dispute is between CBC Distribution and Marketing Inc., a company in St. Louis that operates fantasy sports leagues over the Internet and the Internet arm of Major League Baseball, which says that anyone using players’ names and performance statistics to operate a fantasy league commercially must purchase a license. CBC counters that it does not need a license because the players are public figures whose statistics are in the public domain.”
Alan Schwarz. Baseball Is a Game of Numbers, but Whose Numbers Are They? The New York Times. May 17, 2006.
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri. C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P. (Complaint for Declaratory Judgment). (.pdf) Feb. 7, 2005.
Martha Stark. This I Believe: Numbers Don’t Lie. National Public Radio. May 15, 2006. (Martha Stark is the first African-American woman to serve as New York City Finance Commissioner.)
CopyCense™: K. Matthew Dames on the law, business, and technology of digital content. A business venture of Seso Digital LLC.