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Judge Rules Fantasy Baseball Owners Won’t Have To Pay MLB Royalties (Or Get Lives)

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Following up on a story our own Sean Aqui brought you first — which would imply you love Blogcritics and have it bookmarked as your homepage — Major League Baseball's attempt to copyright their own stats didn't exactly work.

Yesterday a district judge ruled that MLB cannot claim ownership to major league players' stats, since the ballplayers are considered public figures and therefore their performance on the field is owned by the public domain.

Therefore, notifying you that Carlos Zambrano has walked 85 batters this year comes to you at no extra cost.

Actually, the media wouldn't be impacted so much as fantasy baseball leagues whose participants depend on those statistics for some sort of pseudo-manhood validation. Had MLB claimed ownership to those statistics, many of the smalltime fantasy leagues would have to pay royalties. ESPN, Yahoo, and CBS Sportsline's fantasy leagues would have not been effected, since they already had licenses to use the stats. Chumps.

So that poses an interesting question: Are the aforementioned three sports entities just throwing their money away? Logically, they don't need to pay for the stats anymore, or at least until the license expires.

A better question: Who pays for fantasy baseball? Yahoo's free version works pretty well, and you get to keep your hard-earned money.

But it struck me as odd that MLB would care about gleaning revenue from small-time fantasy leagues. You'd think that such fantasy leagues would cultivate interest in the league. After all, there's no greater thrill for a fantasy GM than attending a game, throwing away 4 dollars on a hot dog, then cheering for a player on each team since you own their souls in a parallel universe.

Don't color me naive, though. I know MLB just wants another source of income. We all do. But then again we all want to pick up Zach Miner off the waiver wire for our fantasy teams, free of charge.

Furthermore, fantasy baseball was the inspiration behind all fantasy sports. I'm sure there was a group of 10 people back in the era when spitballs were legal, and all they did was pretend to be baseball GMs and trade players. Of course, I'm sure they didn't do all that work on the computer, unless the stat was a 0 or a 1.

Had the judge ruled in favor of MLB, it would probably cripple fantasy leagues to the point that the fantasy baseball population would dwindle down to — well — the real MLB general managers who were fired. Then it may have opened the oh-so-inviting door for the other leagues to follow suit and piledrive fantasy sports everywhere, inflicing a permanent concussion on the industry.

MLB will probably appeal the ruling. Because as we've already discussed, they can afford the court costs since they got a bunch of free money from ESPN, Yahoo and CBS.

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  • Ty

    Yahoo does have a pay version, and many other leagues have a yahoo tiered set up (free stripped down version, a pay great version).

    MLB just wanted to cash in on that. I don’t blame them, but they had a weak legal argument.

  • http://www.madduxsports.com/blog/ Maddux

    Thank God MLB lost this case. You would think that the MLB and NFL would realize that because fantasy football makes their product more profitable. All this suit did was make those leagues even more money hungry than they already are.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    What are the advantages to paid Yahoo fantasy games? Does Bill James personally tell you who to start each night?

  • paul

    Don’t the big 3 get other rights besides the stats, such as using photographs, etc?