"Fantasy Baseball" Decision

by Lee Gesmer on August 10, 2006

[Update:] Matt Mattari sent me a link to his article on this topic, which was published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology before the publication of the decision. Click here to read the article (pdf file).
Here is a link (pdf file) to the federal district court decision in the C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media and Major League Baseball Players’ Association case, issued on August 8, 2006.

Quoting from the decision:

The court finds that the undisputed facts establish that the players do not have a right of publicity in their names and playing records as used in CBC’s fantasy games and that CBC has not violated the players’ claimed right of publicity. The court further finds, alternatively, that even if the players have a claimed right of publicity, the First Amendment takes precedence over such a right. The court further finds that the undisputed facts establish that the names and playing records of Major League baseball players as used in CBC’s fantasy games are not copyrightable and, therefore, federal copyright law does not preempt the players’ claimed right of publicity. Additionally, the court finds that the no-challenge provision of the 2002 Agreement between CBC and the Players’ Association and the provision of this Agreement which prohibits CBC from using players’ names and playing records after the expiration of the Agreement are unenforceable based on public policy considerations. The court finds, therefore, that declaratory judgment should issue in CBC’s favor. As such, the court will order the Players’ Association and Advanced Media to refrain from interfering with CBC’s fantasy games in the manner proscribed by this court’s decision.

The case contains a very extensive and thoughtful analysis of the issues, particularly the right of publicity and copyright issues. An appeal appears likely.

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