The MLB is saying that anyone using players' names and performance statistics to operate a commercial fantasy league must purchase a license. It is involved in a dispute with a St. Louis company that operates fantasy sports leagues over the internet and claims that it does not need a license because the players are public figures whose statistics are in the public domain.

More than 15 million people spend about $1.5 billion annually to play fantasy sports according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association. Most people use an outside service to keep track of rosters, players' statistics, trades, etc. Many websites, such as CBS SportsLine, Yahoo and ESPN paid Major League Baseball Advanced Media approximately $2 million apiece this year for licenses to display players' names and photographs, team logos and add-ons like video highlight clips.

The St. Louis company, CBC Distribution and Marketing Inc., operates through the Web site It runs its customers' leagues without player photographs (which are controlled by players in nonjournalistic commerce) or team logos (which are trademarks owned by the major league clubs). The St. Louis company's games present only players' names and seasonal statistics, which the company says are newsworthy facts protected by the First Amendment.



Tue 05/16/06, 8:09 am EST

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