Claims in copyright cases (on both sides) sometimes have the air of fantasy about them. A recent dispute involving fantasy baseball leagues revives another fantasy: the assertion by sports leagues that they own copyright in the game statistics. The CDM Fantasy league, owned by the CBC Distribution and Marketing company, filed suit in the Eastern District of Missouri for a declaratory judgment that Major League Baseball's Advanced Media licensing arm cannot require it to take out a license to use game statistics on pain of copyright infringement. (Use of player images might raise right of publicity issues, but those rights are owned by the players, not by the leagues).
Kevin Heller's Tech Law Advisor website posted a blog on the issue last year, and CNN ran a story last week. One would have thought that the Second Circuit's NBA- Motorola decision had ended claims in game data, but the league's Jim Gallagher has been quoted as saying: "Player statistics are in the public domain. We've never disputed that. But if you're going to use the statistics in a game for profit, you need a license from us to do that. We own those statistics when they're used for commercial gain." That's an unusual view of the public domain to say the least; it is a view that the public domain ceases to exist once someone can figure out how to make money off it. And it is the lure of the money that CDM and other sports leagues are making that has brought the matter to a head.
Major League Baseball was successful in getting CDM to pay a license fee in the past, but according to CNN, the Players' Association (?) declined to enter into a new one, prompting the suit.