8th August 2006
In the legal case that goes to the heart of who owns fanatsy stats, Judge Mary Ann Medler conclusion reads:
For the reasons more fully set forth above, 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 his court’s decision.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that CBC’s Motions for Summary Judgment are GRANTED;
The case marks a win for those that view statistics as part of the public domain and outside of copyright law.
Judge Medler goes on to say in her opinion that:
Upon applying the Lear balancing test, the court must balance the concern for the demands of contract law against the concern for full and free use of ideas in the public domain. See G & T Terminal Packaging, 425 F.3d at 717-18; M & M Produce, 335 F.3d at 138. The interest in maintaining free competition is “akin to the public interest in the ‘full and free use of ideas in the public domain’ embodied in the patent laws.” Id. at 139 (citation omitted). The court has addressed in detail above the significance of the free use of ideas in the public domain in regard to CBC’s use of players’ names and playing records. As such, the public interest in ensuring free competition is of great concern in the matter under consideration. As also discussed above, in the context of a claim of the right of publicity, the court has considered that the public has an interest in the dissemination of information. See Gionfriddo, 94 Cal. App.4th at 409. Indeed, CBC’s fantasy games involve the dissemination of information. As stated above, players’ names and playing records as used in CBC’s fantasy games are in the public domain and the playing records are merely facts which are accessible to the general public. Moreover, the playing records represent baseball history.
This court has concluded above that the First Amendment is applicable to CBC’s claim that it is not required to have a license to use players’ names and playing records in its fantasy games and that the First Amendment, in fact, prevails over the players’ claimed right of publicity. Were the court to give effect to the no-challenge provision in the 2002 Agreement and to the provision prohibiting CBC from using the players’ names and playing records without a license, information which is otherwise readily accessible would be removed from the public domain and CBC’s First Amendment rights would be infringed. As such, balancing the interests in favor of CBC would facilitate enforcement of the First Amendment.
This court has also noted above that Major League baseball players make a living from playing baseball and from endorsements; that they are well compensated for these endeavors; but that CBC’s use of players’ names and records in its fantasy games does not go to the heart of the players’ ability to earn a living. See Cardtoons, 95 F.3d at 974. As such, balancing the interests in the matter under consideration in favor of CBC would have little impact on either the players’ ability to earn a living
or on their incentive for achievement. See id.
The court, therefore, finds that in the circumstances of this case “the strong federal policy favoring the full and free use of ideas in the public domain” as manifested in the laws of intellectual property prevails over the challenged contractual provisions in the 2002 Agreement. See M & M Produce, 335 F.3d at 137. As such, the court further finds that the no-challenge provision in the 2002 Agreement39 and the provision which prohibits CBC from using players’ names and/or playing records
without acquiring a license are unenforceable and void as a matter of public policy.
Look for the possiblity of the NBA, NFL, and NHL to file Amicus Curiae briefs to challange this ruling.
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