Supreme Court Declines to Hear Fantasy Baseball Dispute

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Supreme Court yesterday rejected a request to settle a dispute between Major League Baseball and fantasy sports leagues that have grown rapidly on the Internet.

The justices, without comment, let stand a ruling that sports companies have a right under the First Amendment to use the names and statistics of real players without paying Major League Baseball a licensing fee.

Major League Baseball had argued that it and its players have the right to control the use of players' names in what the petition said has become a $1.5 billion fantasy sports industry. But lower courts said the Web sites had a free-speech right to publish information about the players' performances on the field, just as the media do.

In fantasy leagues, participants "draft" players to form their own teams, and their success depends on the real-life performances of the players on the field.

The lawsuit involved a Missouri company, C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing Inc., which once held a licensing agreement from Major League Baseball but then lost it. The company sued and won.

Baseball's petition had been supported by the NFL, the NBA and the NHL.

-- Robert Barnes

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