Who Owns Derek Jeter?

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The New York Times describes a pending court case:

The dispute is between a company in St. Louis that operates fantasy sports leagues over the Internet and the Internet arm of Major League Baseball, which says that anyone using players' names and performance statistics to operate a fantasy league commercially must purchase a license. The St. Louis company counters that it does not need a license because the players are public figures whose statistics are in the public domain.

Does that mean the MLB (motto: "almost as good as the MLA") thinks it owns baseball statistics? No—it's laying claim to something even more substantial:

"What a company like CBC is selling is not nearly a repackaging of statistics," said Lee Goldsmith, a lawyer for Major League Baseball Advanced Media. "They're selling and they're marketing the ability to buy, sell, draft and cut Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols. And part and parcel of the reason that people are willing to pay for that ability is the persona of Jeter, of Rodriguez, of Pujols."…

Major League Baseball Advanced Media is not making a copyright claim to the statistics themselves; a 1997 decision in the United States Court of Appeals involving the National Basketball Association ruled sports statistics to be public-domain facts that do not belong to the leagues.

Rather, the central issue concerns celebrities' ability to control use of their names in commercial ventures, and how this "right of publicity," which has developed under state common law and statute over the last half-century, may commingle with Constitutional press protections under the First Amendment.

And why does MLB think it controls "the persona of Jeter, of Rodriguez, of Pujols"? Because it "purchased the players' Internet and wireless rights from the players union in January 2005."

"If anything, this case is even more impactful if the court rules for the players, because it will speak to any time you use a name in a commercial venture," said Eugene Volokh, a professor of law at U.C.L.A. "What if you use a historical figure's name in a historical novel? Or other games, like Trivial Pursuit? How about 'Jeopardy!'? Would they be liable as well? That seems to be the logical consequence of this. How do you identify what is news, and other times when there's communication of factual information?"

[Via Against Monopoly.]

NEXT: The Strategic Value of Scary Lies

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  1. That’s easy.

    Jonathan Papelbon owns Derek Jeter.

  2. Jonathan Papelbon owns Derek Jeter.

    Classic!

  3. One of the great things about being a New England Patriots fan is listening to Jonathan Kraft on the radio. (Jonathan is Robert Kraft’s son and Vice Chairman of the Team.) He regularly talks about things that come up at the NFL owners meetings.

    The NFL likes to actively encourage Fantasy Football leagues because it gives fans another way to participate in the games. They realize that the fans are the most important part of business of football, and keeping the fans happy means more money in their pockets.

    Now, if MLB wants to make money off of Fantasy Baseball, then they should start up their own Fantasy Baseball system, just like the NFL. Harassing fans of the game simply turns them into non-fans.

  4. Wait a minute…

    ESPN is a “commercial venture”. So is the evening news. If they do a report on a baseball game, and in that report, does that mean that they need a license for each player they mention? If MLB owns its players “personas”, do their parents get a cut of that action, since, well, you know, they were at least a little responsible for said personas?

    Goddamned stupid fucks. They must be taking business model & public relations lessons from the RIAA.

  5. When there are direct conflicts, the First Amendment trumps the Copyright Clause because it is written in restrictive terms, while the Copyright Clause is written in permissive terms. In practice, of course, the general position of the courts has been to allow copyright its due (i.e., no conflict with the First Amendment if copyright laws can somehow be read in harmony with the intent of the Copyright Clause), but there is, in theory, a definite limit.

    As for state tort issues like the “right of publicity”, why, I don’t see that anywhere in my copy of the Constitution. Sure, famous people can assert such rights, but the government can’t enforce them when such people try to overreach the “right of publicity” and try to assert the ability to protect “facts”, because to do so would clearly interfere with the freedom of speech. And the expansion of the right indicated here is arguably preempted by federal copyright law, as well.

  6. That’s easy.

    Jonathan Papelbon owns Derek Jeter.

    For once, joe and I agree.

  7. “The NFL likes to actively encourage Fantasy Football leagues because it gives fans another way to participate in the games.”

    Absolutely. Plaing Fantasy Football has turned me from a Patriots fan, who would watch every Patriots game and check the stats on Boston.com’s Sports page, into an NFL fan, who watches every regular season and playoff game I can find, religiously, and who goes to the NFL.com website a dozen times a week during the season.

    The first year I did it, it cost $15 to sign up on NFL.com. By the next year, it was completely free, as the league realized what a powerful draw it was.

  8. The MLB has a long history of disappointing fans through sheer incompetence. Personally, I’m going to keep blaming Selig for most of it as he’s been awful for the game.

  9. Timothy,

    Here’s my solution:

    • Execute Selig publicly
    • Get rid of the DH
    • Eliminate the wild cards, trading lost playoff revenues for increased interest in the game (what’s the friggin’ point of a 162-game season, otherwise?)
    • If Bonds threatens Aaron’s record, allow Hank to return to the game, and don’t field any of his hits (of 20-MPH pitches)
  10. Lump me in with the other Fantasy Football fans. I’ve been playing for six years, and have, not coincidentally, been a subscriber of NFL Sunday Ticket for the last five.

  11. “The MLB has a long history of disappointing fans through sheer incompetence. Personally, I’m going to keep blaming Selig for most of it as he’s been awful for the game.”

    Maybe he’s got a ‘The Producers’-style plan for MLB…that would explain alot.

  12. Personally, I’m going to keep blaming Selig for most of it as he’s been awful for the game.

    Compared to David Stern, Bud Selig is a genius.

  13. So maybe it’s time for MLB’s antitrust exemption to be revoked?

  14. Jonathan Papelbon owns Derek Jeter.

    Well done, Joe.

  15. Jonathan Papelbon owns Derek Jeter.

    That’s funny, I own Varitek, Graffy, and Damon!

  16. Absolutely. Plaing Fantasy Football has turned me from a Patriots fan, who would watch every Patriots game and check the stats on Boston.com’s Sports page, into an NFL fan, who watches every regular season and playoff game I can find, religiously, and who goes to the NFL.com website a dozen times a week during the season.

    What I don’t understand is that there are millions of people like this, yet MLB (1) doesn’t seem to know, or (2) wants to actively drive them away. It just boggles my mind. There’s no logical explanation for it.

  17. I shudder to think what would happen if Bill Wirtz owned a baseball team.

  18. Cedarburg,

    What I don’t get is the local blackout policy. Lemme see here, we’ve got a product that isn’t as popular as we’d like it to, and we’ve got a broadcaster signed up to give us 2-3 hours of no cost airtime showcasing the product.

    I know, let’s tell the broadcaster to go screw himself!

  19. El Duque,

    Damon? Feh – you can keep him.

  20. the actions of mlb and it’s teams used to boggle my mind, but the more i have thought about it, i can’t say that i would do anything differently. after all, people are strange when it comes to their sports teams. an organization can basically give a fan the finger and kick his mother down a flight of stairs and he’ll still show up at the games – and then wonder why the team sucks too.

    like cubs fans who bitch about how terrible their team is but seemingly sell out every day at wrigley. why should the management care how they do on the field or how badly they screw the fans over when judging by history – they’ll show up anyway!

    also, pujols – while indisputably the greatest baseball player ever to grace the earth (no hyperbole) – isn’t exactly someone you’d pick up for his charisma or persona.

  21. As a Sox fan who has been giddy to the point of lunancy (lunancy in a Sox fan??) about the emergence of John Papelbon you made my friggin’ day with that joe

  22. man, i don’t know how you red sox fans put up with that soap opera.

    of course, as part of The Official Division of ESPN, there’s really no escaping it.

  23. MLBAM, the operating arm that’s involved in the lawsuit, has set a public position that it wants people involved in fantasy games, just not the crappy ones out there now (CDM, Scoresheet, etc.) No, what you should do is play in the games that MLB sponsors, and no other ones.

    And after all, what could be more fun than the games they are providing? The “Guess who will get a hit today” is far more fun than lineup-tweaking, keeper-league strategy. You might not know it yet, but you will.

    I’ve done some research on this, and I am reasonably optimistic that MLBAM will lose. However, it’s very spendy to run these lawsuits, and I could see their opposition caving in with some sort of deal, resulting in forcing some other sucker into running the lawsuit start to finish. Most of these companies don’t have the resources or willpower to do that.

    –JRM

  24. So, if my unlicensed MLB fantasy league allows you to draft, trade and sell Derek Cheetah — whose stats just happen to be the same as an anonymous AL shortstop — then I’m in the clear?

  25. David Stern is worse than Selig? Stern is up there with Tags as far as sports commissioner geniuses go. He’s turned pro hoops into a major money-maker, helped guide it back to greatness in the post-Jordan era and has made it the most global of all American sports leagues, even baseball. At the same time, he’s making a boatload of money for his owners. Selig couldn’t carry Sterns jock.

  26. I’m sorry, but the NBA sucks. The quality of the game has taken a nosedive. I think the last time I enjoyed the NBA was sometime in the late 80s. It’s not a sport anymore, it’s entertainment.

    I still like the college game. Especially when my team decided to finally win it all this year.

  27. JRM,

    I wonder if MLBAM understands that most fantasy baseball players are doing most of their league management off-line anyway because none of the web-based companies offers very comprehensive options.

    If MLBAM would actually put together a decent fantasy league option – keeper leagues, head-to-head & rotisseries combination, etc. they’d blow away all the other providers out there.

  28. Jeter is a fuck face and a manwhore.

  29. Jeter is a fuck face and a manwhore.

  30. Jeter is a fuck face and a manwhore.

  31. Jeter is a fuck face and a manwhore.

  32. Jeter is a fuck face and a manwhore.

  33. Jeter is a fuck face and a manwhore.

  34. Jeter is a fuck face and a manwhore.

  35. Jeter is a fuck face and a manwhore.

  36. Jeter is a fuck face and a manwhore.

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