PlayerSearch Blog

by Ted Kasten, Founder of PlayerSearch

Supreme Court denies hearing for MLB case

It appears that MLB has exhausted its chances to overrule two previous court rulings that stated player statistics and the player names associated with those statistics are in the public domain. It was pretty incredible watching this case from the very beginning all the way to the Supreme Court. CDM Sports has been a business partner of mine since 2005 and they have been great people to work with. As a board member of the FSTA, I was also involved in the decision to fund three briefs on behalf of CDM Sports and the fantasy sports industry in general…so I have watched this case closely from start to finish. (can’t believe MLB brought it all the way to the Supreme Court…but if you look at the economics of it it isn’t that surprising that they refused to give up…although their legal expenses are reportedly well over $2 million, the value of owning the rights to players names is worth ten times that; in fact ESPN reportedly opted out of a seven-year, $140 million deal with MLBAM after 3 years after MLBAM lost its appeal in late 2007).

I wrote about this case previously here.

Charlie Wiegert, a business partner of mine and colleague on the FSTA board, deserves full credit for taking on and beating MLB by himself. It cost him high six figures to defend his business and he had to do it alone (larger companies that could afford to cover legal fees such as ESPN, Yahoo, and SportsLine already had licenses from MLBAM and also had more important TV deals with MLB and the NFL; smaller companies like mine could only afford to pray for Charlie and offer him a beer at the next FSTA conference).

Rudy Telscher, lead counsel for CDM, also deserves a lot of credit. He spoke a couple of times (when legally practicle) at the FSTA conferences and it was clear he understood an incredible amount of detail and every little nuance of this case and related cases. This was nothing short of a David versus Goliath effort and accomplishment.

It will be very interesting to see what happens to the partnership between MLB and MLBAM after this. In 2005, MLBAM paid MLB $50 million to acquire the on-line rights to players, including for fantasy sports purposes. This isn’t exactly an arms length transaction as MLBAM is a subsidiary of MLB, but it is clear that a significant chunk of those on-line rights are now worth a lot less. MLB.com is still in great shape (13mm Unique Visitors in April; top 5 sports destination) and can continue to grow by adding games, video, content and other innovations that draw customers to its site.

I will post further information here as I get it. Charlie recently started his own blog which is here. It sounds like Charlie is getting ready for TV interviews at this point so he may not get a chance to blog about this until later.

More coverage by RotoNation here and here. I just spoke with Don Walker at Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Don is writing an article that will be in the print edition of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tomorrow (my favorite hometown paper).

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June 2, 2008 - Posted by | Supreme Court |

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