Earlier this week, I wrote about a Supreme Court decision that protected workers from retribution after making claims of discrimination. On Monday, the Court will decide whether or not it will hear a completely different matter – Do fantasy baseball leagues have to pay Major League Baseball and its players for use of their statistics? While perhaps not as popular as their football counterparts, fantasy baseball leagues can still claim a strong following of sports fans who enjoy developing hypothetical teams as a hobby. I am sure these enthusiasts will be watching to see if their pocketbooks will be affected.
Right now, large media companies like Yahoo and ESPN already pay millions of dollars to MLB every year for the right to licensing and use of player statistics. Major League Baseball and the players’ association believe smaller outfits that run fantasy leagues should also have to pay for the privilege. To do otherwise, they say, amounts to the stealing of intellectual property and implying an endorsement by a player when none has been given.
The smaller companies, led by a St.Louis-based business called CBC Distribution and Marketing, Inc have already won their case in two lower courts. They successfully argued that the players’ information is public domain, as the statistics are easily found in newspapers and the internet. To ban access to this information would be a violation of the First Amendment.
The MLB has the backing of other professional sports leagues, so the consequences will reach past just baseball if the Supreme Court overturns the previous rulings.
Will it cost you a little more this fall as you ponder whether to take Tom Brady or Peyton Manning as your quarterback? Will this have been the last season that you were able to acquire Chipper Jones for your fantasy office league for free? Stay tuned to the Supreme Court and we will all soon find out!