MLB wants fantasy league profits

By Sky Opila

CBC Distribution & Marketing, a fantasy baseball company based out of St. Louis, Mo., is suing in the United States District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri claiming their use of baseball statistics does not require a license from Major League Baseball.

On Jan. 19, 2005, MLB released a press release that stated that “they have agreed to an exclusive relationship combining the personal attributes and marketing power of Major League Baseball players as a group with the trademarks, symbols and logos of Major League Baseball and its teams for exploitation through interactive media.”

In short, the press release requires a license for a fantasy sports league to access the statistics produced by players because of a $50 million deal between MLB and the MLB Players’ Association, giving MLB exclusive rights to the statistics.

Since fantasy sports leagues have become multi-million dollar franchises, more people are becoming involved. Students who participate in baseball fantasy leagues will have to deal with an increase in participation and registration fees if MLB is allowed to claim sole licensing rights on statistics.

Greg Meves, senior in LAS, has been moderating sports fantasy leagues for his friends for about the past eight years. Meves said he feels that baseball should not be able to claim statistics, which may potentially raise prices for people such as himself.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
Thank you for subscribing!

“I would just play other fantasy sports and not baseball,” Meves said. “Even if I did play, most people I know wouldn’t, so I would not be able to play with my friends.”

Due to the pending nature of the case, MLB and CBC have declined comment.

MLB has threatened that CBC’s continued use of baseball statistics is a violation of its intellectual property rights. In order to combat this, CBC has issued a complaint for declaratory judgment.

“Sometimes, for tactical reasons or because they don’t want to wait around, the person who is on the other side of the dispute (CBC) says, ‘we’re not violating anything,'” said Stephen Ross, professor of Law at the University. “What you can do in federal court is use this procedure called complaint for declaratory judgment, which puts the court in a position to declare what (CBC is) doing is legal.”

CBC filed a complaint for declaratory judgment on Feb. 7, 2005.

CBC has been operating sports fantasy games since 1992 under its own brand name, CDM Fantasy Sports, as well as providing services for other sports media. The company offers fantasy sports services in baseball, football, basketball, hockey, golf and auto racing games.

CBC had been paying nine percent of revenue to the MLB Players’ Association until a new agreement gave MLB itself the right to license player stats. Thus far, MLB has declined to issue CBC a license.

CBC still feels that they do not need a license in the first place. They are arguing that sports statistics are not eligible for copyright, once the game ends.

“My sense is that the argument of Major League Baseball is a bit of a stretch,” Ross said. “For example, the idea that a congressman’s name and voting record could be protected as a matter of intellectual property rights would be recognized as ridiculous.”

MLB has yet to release their response to CBC’s complaint, but the case may go to court July 24.