Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Fantasy freaks + Lawyers = Trouble

End of the fantasy world as we know it?

From the article:

CDM Fantasy Sports filed a suit Monday against MLB in a federal court in St. Louis. (Last year CDM provided online baseball games used by USA TODAY, but this year those games will not be available at SATODAY.com.)
The lawsuit's gist, CDM lawyer Rudy Telscher says, is pretty simple: Can
anybody own statistics?


[ . . . ]

Telscher argues such statistics are in the public domain —like names in telephone books.


Well, I don't know about that last part.

I only took one intellectual property course in law school, but my general understanding is that, while mere facts are not subject to copyright law, the "selection and arrangement" of them---if displaying at least a modicum of creativity---might be.

Telscher uses the telephone book example above because there was a seminal case on exactly that point. From my limited knowledge of the subject, though, I wouldn't presume that the telephone book example necessarily applies to his use of stats. While there are only limited ways to organize ("select and arrange" data) for a coherent telephone book, there are numerous ways to do so with baseball statistics, all requiring some creativity. But I have little idea of the actual facts of his case, so I don't want to take the point too far.

Anyway, on principle, though, I have a hard time believing that---as far as raw data goes---MLB could possibly "own" basic statistics. As a poster in the Baseball Primer discussion pointed out, "Bonds went 0-for-1 with 3 walks" can't possibly be subject to copyright law.

Also, see here.

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