Troubled times for fantasy sports leagues?

MLB’s case against CBC Distribution will come down to players’ names, not statistics, says copyright and entertainment law expert

Fantasy sports providers and fans will be closely following the ongoing case involving CBC Distribution, Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association. CBC, a company that runs fantasy sports leagues, sued MLB to establish its rights to use statistics and names of MLB players as part of its online leagues. The Players Association intervened to establish the players’ rights to control their own names and associated statistics. Both MLB and the Players Association filed counterclaims against CBC for using the names and statistics.

Jennifer Rothman

“CBC was already paying the Major League Players Association a cut of what it was earning,” she says. “And then, when its license expired, the Players Association did not want to renew the contract. Instead, the players made a deal with Major League Baseball for $50 million dollars.” MLB now contends that all fantasy baseball leagues need to license the players’ names and statistics.

Even if MLB wins, gamers may be able to continue their leagues on free sites or by using the players’ numbers instead of names. “It will be interesting to see whether Major League Baseball spends a lot of money on litigation that ultimately may not give them a big victory,” Rothman says.

“Major League Baseball, however, is undoubtedly planning to launch their own fantasy league or to license leagues to certain individuals so that Major League Baseball can garner some of that money,” Rothman says. “I think Major League Baseball should also be a little afraid that these established leagues may go underground. We may have a peer-to-peer situation where people will find a way to do this without licensing.” The case is scheduled for a jury trial later this year.