Strike three


First Posted: 6/3/2008

On Monday, without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Major League Baseball's appeal of two lower-court rulings that held players' names and statistics are in the public domain and thus can be used freely by Web sites catering to the millions of Americans in "fantasy" sports leagues.

These leagues - in which fans draft individual players and compete to see whose team can amass the best cumulative statistics over a season - have helped build and intensify interest in baseball.

But baseball - as well as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League - has argued for years that player names and statistics are the jointly held intellectual property of players and teams. The leagues liken historical facts to the copyrighted work product of artists.

This is absurd. If historical facts about an individual are private property, there goes free speech, the media, the education system and more. Beyond that, is there any logic in claiming that box scores showing Alex Rodriguez went eight for 22 with two home runs and five RBI last week are as protected in a property rights sense as the song "Yesterday" by the Beatles?

Of course not. This is why baseball's legal crusade went nowhere.

Still, as nonsensical as players' and owners' legal arguments were, their greed is even more offensive. At a time when revenue has never been higher, baseball wants to wring more money out of fans, by any means necessary. Major League Baseball should be ashamed.