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  • MLB Claims They Own Statistics...

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    A new reality for fantasy leagues?
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    MLB argues it owns stats, which could ground free games for many fans of the leagues

    BY RICHARD J. DALTON JR
    Newsday Staff Writer

    March 22, 2006

    Who owns Ken Griffey Jr.'s home run statistics, Roger Clemens' pitching record or the rights to Alex Rodriguez's name?

    Major League Baseball claims it does. A company that runs fantasy baseball leagues disagrees. And in July, both sides will fight it out in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

    If Major League Baseball wins the right to control the statistics, it could eliminate hundreds of free leagues, raise the price for the dozens of fee-based leagues and limit the variety of game formats, a lawyer for the plaintiff claims.

    The public battle also could taint Major League Baseball's reputation among the 4 million fanatics of fantasy baseball, said Ben Clark, a partner at the intellectual property firm Senniger Powers in St. Louis. "I think they quite rightly perceive that it is not a particularly popular position they're taking. A lot of people play fantasy baseball." In fantasy baseball, participants form teams from actual major-league players, and the fantasy team's performance is based on real-life statistics.

    The battle comes as Major League Baseball focuses on its own fantasy baseball leagues and its licenses with a handful of companies, down from 20 licensees last year, according to briefs in the case.

    "It's apparent that Major League Baseball is undertaking a strategy to limit the people who get these names and stats," Clark said.

    But Major League Baseball says it wants to improve the game, not limit choices. "The fantasy licenses that we have granted this year are in the best interests of the fans and fantasy baseball players around the world," said Jim Gallagher, spokesman for Major League Baseball's Internet unit.

    The friction began when Major League Baseball's Internet unit bought the rights to players' statistics for $50 million last year, then refused to grant a license to St. Louis-based CBC Distribution and Marketing, CBC claims.

    So CBC, which runs its own fantasy league and provides services to USA Today, Sports Weekly and MSNBC, sued.

    Rudolph Telscher, a lawyer in the St. Louis office of Harness and Dickey representing CBC, said the First Amendment allows CBC to publish the statistics for free. He also said the statistics are historical facts in the public domain.

    Gallagher agreed the statistics are in the public domain but added, "If you're going to use Alex Rodriguez's name and picture and number and team logo to go along with those stats, then you have to pay a licensing fee."

    Gallagher said that, like other fantasy leagues, CBC had previously paid licensing fees to the players association before the association sold the rights to baseball's Internet arm. He said CBC just doesn't want to pay the higher fees that unit is charging.

    But Telscher said, "The only offer ever made to our company was that we turn over all of our customers to MLB for a 10-percent commission and then we would be out of the business, which was not an offer at all."

    In an earlier case, Major League Baseball was on the other end when a group of former players sued it, claiming their rights were violated by the use of their names and statistics in game programs. Major League Baseball claimed it was historical data and a California court agreed.

    The current case reminds Eli Eilbott, an intellectual-property lawyer at Duncan, Weinberg, Genzer & Pembroke in Washington, D.C., of another case. In 1996, the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers demanded that camps pay license fees for scouts singing campfire songs including "God Bless America," "Row Row Row" and "Happy Birthday." The society backed down after a public outcry.

    "It sure sounds like a short-sighted move by MLB," Eilbott said. "These fantasy leagues, if anything, are great for baseball."

    Copyright (c) 2006, Newsday, Inc.

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    This article originally appeared at:
    http://www.newsday.com/business/prin...,6019069.story

    Visit Newsday online at http://www.newsday.com

  • #2
    I have never hear of a single time when limiting competition resulted in better choices for the consumer. This is a real bonehead move, but since MLB could make real money if only 10% of the current players who are in pay leagues join theirs I am sure they will push it all the way.

    This has all the earmarks of of a guy with deep pockets using the court system to break the guy with shallow pockets.
    Buck O'Neil: The Monarch of Baseball

    Comment


    • #3
      As long as Yahoo has free leagues this will not effect me...but still the nerve, how can they claim to own the number of hits a player gets in a season?
      RIP - HGF [1937-2009]

      Comment


      • #4
        Okay, first of all I work for MLB in the Stats Department, though I work in on the Minor League side let me clarify a few things.

        One, MLB compiles the statistics that other fantasy sites use. We compile the stats for Yahoo, for ESPN and so forth. I believe that the stats are sold to these entities to be used to report on the games themselves. So, in the very rudimentary sense, MLB does own Yahoo's stats.

        Two, what MLB objects to, in my understanding, is the entrpreneurial ventures that use the stats AND likeness of the players. It is a licencing issue, just as you can't just start producing baseball cards to sell on the market without getting liscencing from MLB. If you wanted to refer to #23, 3B from NYA, I don't think there's anything MLB could do. This is similar to Michael Jordan not appearing in many NBA video games.

        Fantasy baseball is good for MLB fanship, profiting off the work of others is plageurism.

        MLB does not claim to own the stats themselves. What they claim is that they have a right to determine the manner in which the players (their employees) are marketed, and to require liscencing to replicate a player's likeness and statistics in a form that is not directly related to the reporting of the baseball games themselves.

        Finally, I play in Yahoo leagues. I don't support MLB's crusade to take down all leagues, I see no problems with the free ones. They are not making money off of our work without compensating us, not directly at least. But, I have to say, (and I am as anti-corporation as anybody you've ever met) if there are pay fantasy sites, making money off of stats that other people are collecting and catalouging, without compensating that other source, that's not right. That is like not compensating a ghostwriter of a song or book. We provide the meat of the leagues, the numbers.
        Last edited by digglahhh; 03-23-2006, 12:24 PM.
        THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

        In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

        Comment


        • #5
          I hope Sporting news fantasy baseball stays. I've played that the last 2 years and I love it.
          "I don't like to sound egotistical, but every time I stepped up to the plate with a bat in my hands, I couldn't help but feel sorry for the pitcher."
          -Rogers Hornsby-

          "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."
          -Rogers Hornsby-

          Just a note to all the active members of BBF, I consider all of you the smartest baseball people I have ever communicated with and love everyday I am on here. Thank you all!

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by digglahhh
            Okay, first of all I work for MLB in the Stats Department, though I work in on the Minor League side let me clarify a few things.

            One, MLB compiles the statistics that other fantasy sites use. We compile the stats for Yahoo, for ESPN and so forth. I believe that the stats are sold to these entities to be used to report on the games themselves. So, in the very rudimentary sense, MLB does own Yahoo's stats.

            Two, what MLB objects to, in my understanding, is the entrpreneurial ventures that use the stats AND likeness of the players. It is a licencing issue, just as you can't just start producing baseball cards to sell on the market without getting liscencing from MLB. If you wanted to refer to #23, 3B from NYA, I don't think there's anything MLB could do. This is similar to Michael Jordan not appearing in many NBA video games.

            Fantasy baseball is good for MLB fanship, profiting off the work of others is plageurism.

            MLB does not claim to own the stats themselves. What they claim is that they have a right to determine the manner in which the players (their employees) are marketed, and to require liscencing to replicate a player's likeness and statistics in a form that is not directly related to the reporting of the baseball games themselves.
            I had thought of the second point you raised before voicing my objection but I had not considered that MLB may sell their stats to other "news" services. If that is the case and they are only going after "unauthorised" pay leagues then I say good for them. Thanks Digglahhhh!
            RIP - HGF [1937-2009]

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by digglahhh
              Fantasy baseball is good for MLB fanship, profiting off the work of others is plageurism.
              I don't agree it can be called plagiarism. If there was an expectation in place for the fanatsy leagues to use thier owns stats, of which I have no idea where they would come, then the insertion of major league stats could be considered plagiarism.

              The only production of major league stats is major league stats. There is no other alternative.

              I know what you're saying but plagiarism is the wrong word to use.
              "I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don't think about it is when I'm playing it."
              Carl Yastrzemski

              Comment


              • #8
                How is a small fantasy operation site going to compile their own stats? Can they really send people out to every game, get them access to the press box, notifications of every tiny roster move made by every team? They can't do this. It is unrealistic to think that an independent site could run a league without the assistance of MLB.

                Stats Inc. is independent of MLB, they keep their own stats. But that is a big enterprise.

                I guess your argument is that MLB is a monopoly, well, in a sense you may have a point, but that's something you would have to take up with the Supreme Court.

                Now, MLB does hold a high amount of leverage here because of their size, that's true. To what degree that can be considered "unfair" is debatable.

                But, RS, if I score a game, and enter the PBP data into a computer system to generate the stats for the players involved, and then you use the end-product of the work I just did, and print them in involvement with your entrpreneurial venture (that is only tangentially related to baseball, mind you), what do you call that? I'm open to suggestions for a better word than plageurism.
                THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

                In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

                Comment


                • #9
                  In this case I would loosely call it stealing, but since there is no actual ownership of stats, I won't go as far as to call you a thief.

                  I agree with what you're saying, but you didn't create the numbers; you're simply plugging them into a computer and to take it a step further, the stats aren't an idea of any sort. They are what they are. They can't be bargained with and they can't be changed. I'm not copying any idea or words you created and as the one using the stats, I'm certainly calling them my own.

                  I obviously can't conceptualize it the way you do and come up with plagiarism, which isn't necessarily a bad thing; we both have different perceptions of what plagiarism is.

                  If you were to call it unauthorized reproduction, I would be much more comfortable with that.

                  And stop spelling plagiarism wrong, it's pissing me off.
                  Last edited by runningshoes; 03-24-2006, 08:30 AM.
                  "I think about baseball when I wake up in the morning. I think about it all day and I dream about it at night. The only time I don't think about it is when I'm playing it."
                  Carl Yastrzemski

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by runningshoes53
                    If you were to call it unauthorized reproduction, I would be much more comfortable with that.
                    I can deal with that.

                    Compiling the stats is actually a lot more work than it seems to be, especially in the Minor Leagues, where I specifically work.

                    I mean this isn't just runs, hits and errors stuff. Its defensive stats, catcher ERA, all those kinds of things as well. Not to mention the worst part, having to overrule to explain the nuances of rules, like how and when you are allowed to assume double plays and stuff to team PR guys who don't know the rules fully, but want their guys to look good, so they argue anyway.
                    THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

                    In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I have played Fantasy and Roto League Baseball since 1985 and in the old days we as owners paid a service to compile our stats in a form we chose.In 2006 there is very little reason for any league to pay for this service because of the freedom of information on the internet.

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