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Who Owns Baseball Statistics?

It's well past the bottom of the ninth, and the boys of summer have long ago left the mound, but that hasn't stopped Major League Baseball from trying to wring a few more dollars out of last season.  MLB has decided to attack fantasy baseball

Yep, it gives a whole new meaning to Rotisserie leagues

According to LA Times writer Greg Johnson, a fantasy baseball game operator, CBC Distribution & Marketing has filed a complaint against MLB, arguing that MLB cannot force it to obtain a license to plug baseball stats into its games.  MLB claims it owns the numbers, or perhaps more accurately the statistics of baseball.  I don't play fantasy baseball, but I have a lot of friends who do, and most of them are attorneys.  You can count on numerous amicus curiae briefs being filed in this case, most likely in favor of CBC, and against MLB.

It's hard to imagine that MLB will be successful in its claim that it owns the statistics of the game.  They're numbers, right?  On the other hand, there are several cases out there about the alphabet, and some intellectual property rulings side in favor of companies owning part of the alphabet, in certain configurations.  But I can't fathom that one through one thousand, or any of the other myriad statistics thrown out at baseball games (pun intended) can be the property of those who play the game.  It would be like Webster's claiming that I have to obtain a license to write this blog because they first trademarked the words in their dictionary.

Next thing you know, they'll be charging the fans to quote statistics to one another.  Nah.  Numbers (and letters and words) are owned by the people, not the major leagues.


Posted by J. Craig Williams on Wednesday, January 04, 2006

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