Thursday, June 5, 2008

Major League Baseball 0, Fantasy Baseball 1

Fans of fantasy baseball won a legal victory this week, when the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of a lower court decision ruling that fantasy baseball leagues don't have to pay licensing fees to Major League Baseball for use of players' names and statistics.

From the New York Times:
Sensing a way to make even more money than it already does, Major League Baseball has tried to force people to start paying for their fandom by imposing licensing fees on “fantasy” baseball leagues to use major league players’ names and statistics. Happily for fans and free speech,
Major League Baseball was tossed out of the game this week in the Supreme Court.


The St. Louis-based United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled for CBC. Any claims that the company violated the league’s right of publicity, the court said, were trumped by the First Amendment. Reciting and discussing information about Major League Baseball is speech of “substantial public interest,” the court said.

This week, the Supreme Court turned down Major League Baseball’s appeal of that decision. In doing so, the court was not saying anything about the merits of the case; it turns down cases for many reasons. The effect, though, is to leave in place an important pro-free-speech ruling.

As the Times notes, the Supreme Court merely declined to hear MLB's appeal from its loss in the lower appellate court. The Supreme Court receives close to 10,000 petitions to hear cases every year. Of those, the Court agrees to hear only a very tiny percentage (less than 1% in recent years).

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