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  • mlb files suit over ownership of stats

    crazy but true department:

    mlb recently filed suit against a fantasy league and plans on filing more lawsuits over ownership of official baseball stats.
    "you don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. just get people to stop reading them." -ray bradbury

  • #2
    Just one more reason for me to give up baseball.

    Good work, MLB..keep it up.
    "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

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    • #3
      in an earlier case, the shoe was on the other foot.
      a group of former players sued mlb, claiming that their rights were violated by the use of their names and statistics in game programs. mlb prevailed when a california court agreed that it was historical data.
      -richard j dalton, jr., newsday, sunday, 26 march 2006


      here is the article
      "you don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. just get people to stop reading them." -ray bradbury

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      • #4
        That must not bode well for MLB's arguement of ownership then.
        "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

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        • #5
          This is clearly historical data...as soon as the games are in the books...the numbers belong to everyone...MLB can suck it.

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          • #6
            is mlb trying to state lean on the idea that stats are an "account" of the game?
            what could be behind their stance?
            "you don't have to burn books to destroy a culture. just get people to stop reading them." -ray bradbury

            Comment


            • #7
              Fantasy baseball isn'r real baseball. Using the data (especially in real time) for a capitalist venture that is not essentially related to actual baseball is the main problem. Its really the pay sites that MLB should have issue with. They certainly don't complain about newspapers using the numbers because thhe papers arre actually reporting on the game.

              Here's from a post I made in the fantasy forum:

              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.
              THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

              In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

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              • #8
                Originally posted by digglahhh
                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.[/I]
                Feist v Rural ruled quite clearly that the "sweat of the brow" doesn't apply. If someone compiles data that is available to the public domain, and distributes it in a non-original manner, anyone is allowed to do with it as they wish. (The case was based on a phone book.)

                As much as we want "hard work" protected, it is not given protection. Artistic expression is given protection. The more original the expression of the idea, the more likely copyright applies. Ideas, data, and information is not copyrightable.

                MLBAM does not claim ownership of the stats. What they are claiming is that only they own games using the names of the players (which they licenced from MLBPA) and their stats (which is public domain). You can probably get around this by using player numbers, unless those numbers are so identifiable to the player that it's as if their names are being used. Or a pig-latin version of their names, etc.

                To the extent that only they own such games, and you need to licence from them, they may prevail. They certainly couldn't stop retrosheet.org or baseball-reference.com from existing, no matter who did the hard work in compiling the data.

                They may stop some sites (like b-r.com) from accepting advertising that is based on the identities of the players themselves. That may be a licencing issue. Imagine shutting down b-r.com because someone bought Barry Bonds' page. Of course to get around this, b-r.com could sell "premium" ad space, without specifiying it be Barry in particular, but a random selection of 50 pages.

                Tom
                Author of THE BOOK -- Playing The Percentages In Baseball

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                • #9
                  interesting commentary Tango.

                  Sheds a little light on what is going on here...I still think it's not legally within MLB's right to claim ownership of something that is by its' very lature historical information...but I can sort of see their angle...as unfortunately as it might be.

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                  • #10
                    Tango,

                    This case is a little different from Feist v. Rural. Utilities are public companies, for one. MLBAM is a different kind of company. Even if you could argue convincingly that baseball stats are public services, you would still have to justify their extrapolation into privately run fantasy leagues as also being of public service.

                    Newspapers provide a public service so of course MLBAM wouldn't complain about newspapers reprinting the stats, names and images of the players. In addition, newspapers report on the actual game, not fantasy baseball.

                    Also, the information in the Rural case was not protected because it didn't pass the de minimis quantum of creativity. It is not a given that the compilation of baseball stats would fail that standard. I can take anybody of the street and they can copy phone numbers and registry info; they can't necessarily score baseball games pitch by pitch and differentiate between earned and unearned runs.

                    You could certainly get around whatever statutes rule by not using the actual names and/or images of the players.

                    Bref, retrosheet and the like are sites that post historical data, and that data, as historical reference, is clearly public domain. Fantasy baseball sites do not use the data for historical purposes though.

                    There are a lot of nuanced differences between these two cases. Personally, if they want to go after the pay fantasy sites, that's fine with me. To go after fantasy baseball in general is a little overealous and heavy-handed.
                    THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

                    In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by digglahhh
                      Tango,

                      This case is a little different from Feist v. Rural. Utilities are public companies, for one. MLBAM is a different kind of company. Even if you could argue convincingly that baseball stats are public services, you would still have to justify their extrapolation into privately run fantasy leagues as also being of public service.
                      It's been a few years since I read the case. IIRC, "public companies", "public services" is irrelevant. Can you quote me Feist v Rural where that made a difference. The sole point was public domain. Is the information part of the public domain or not? MLB is not claiming that the data they distribute is private. Except for things like pitch location and hit location, all other accounts of the game is public domain. This is why I can, today, take the MLB data, and sell it to anyone I want for any price I want. BIS doesn't need a licence from MLB to collect the data, nor does STATS, or the local paper guy. And attaching the data to the names is also fine. All that is public domain. It's irrelevant if it's a "public service" or whatnot. MLB has no standing on what happens with the data, post-game.

                      In-game, this goes to the STATS v NBA case, where STATS provides real-time feeds. The argument there, IIRC, is what constitutes "hot news". I think STATS prevailed, and I think that's why you see real-time feeds from sources that requires no licence from the leagues themselves.

                      The MLBAM case is strictly on terms of creating a game using the players themselves. It's a right of publicity case, not a copyright case. MLBPA has sold their licence to MLBAM, which is the only reason MLBAM is involved here. If MLBPA didn't sell it, MLB and MLBAM would not even be involved in this at all.

                      So, throw out all this talk about the hard work in collecting the data, the public service, copyright, etc. Those aren't issues in play.

                      The issue is how much control does a player have over his identity.
                      Author of THE BOOK -- Playing The Percentages In Baseball

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                      • #12
                        I was going to mention the Stat-tracker services and stuff that use the data real time.

                        Granted, the public service issue doens't seem to be influential here, if not irrelevant altogether.

                        I've said from the beginning that this is about a right of publicity case. Just like a board game of video game would need to get permission to use a player's stats, image, identity... all together, so would an internet game.
                        Last edited by digglahhh; 04-05-2006, 09:41 AM.
                        THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

                        In the avy: AZ - Doe or Die

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I guess I haven't seen your posts on other threads.

                          ***

                          Your last sentence is not a given. The question before the courts is how far can a person control his identity. What can and can't I do with Larry Walker. Can I use his name, number, team name, and stats, and put it on my website, and charge money for it? Sure, no problem. Can I do that, and sell advertising on that specific page? I dunno. Can I make a game with his data? I dunno. Can I do a movie where I recreate his life? I think I can. Can I do a movie where I criticize his life? I think I can. Can I do a movie where I use the 1994 Expos and recreate the missing 1994 games, and create a 1994 World Series? I think I can.

                          I don't think MLBAM will prevail, but let's see what the Judge says.
                          Author of THE BOOK -- Playing The Percentages In Baseball

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