Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fantasy reaches Supreme Court

So, how do you know when you've arrived?

Perhaps, when you find yourself at the steps of the Supreme Court.

That's where the sport of fantasy baseball is currently sitting, as Major League Baseball has taken CBS Distribution and Marketing Inc. to court, saying they owe MLB money for licensing fees of the baseball players and stats that they use for fantasy baseball.

A St. Louis-based company called CBC Distribution and Marketing Inc. says that companies shouldn’t have to pay licensing fees to use those figures — and they’ve already won their case in two lower courts, so MLB has filed an appeal to the nation's highest court.

CBC has already won the case at two lower courts and now MLB is filing an appeal to the nation's highest court.

Check out the story here.

This debate has been going on for some time. Yahoo and ESPN both pay MLB millions in licensing fees to use baseball names and statistics for their fantasy baseball web sites.

The debate is whether smaller services should also have to pay.

My take is that ultimately, statistics are public domain and that MLB should be careful about how hard they fight against services who are, in the end, feeding baseball's popularity.

After all, baseball, whether they would like to admit it or not, rebounded from the 1994 strike because of two things.

The great 1998 McGwire-Sosa HR chase.

And the growing popularity of fantasy baseball.

It's part of why the NFL has soared in popularity, because more Americans play fantasy football than any other sport, including roto baseball.

This is a deep issue that could be talked about for hours.

But hopefully, baseball doesn't shoot itself in the foot, trying to protest every small operation trying to give them publicity.

Sure, these folks are making money off of MLB, which is exactly their argument, but if they dig their heels in too hard, baseball fans may start feeling like 1994 all over again.


Anonymous said...

This issue is similar to the rooftops at Wrigley a few years ago. Sure they're making money off the Cubs, but why make the franchise look bad by going after every dollar made off of the rooftops.

Carlos Quentin should make all-star team unless Francona is crazy.