Wednesday, August 09, 2006

CDM is the new fantasy sports hero

The leadup to the NFL season, always a time of expectation and excitement for fantasy sports freaks like myself, has been sweetened with the news that CDM won its case against MLBAM today. In short, Major League Baseball tried to destroy competition in the 100+-provider fantasy baseball industry by licensing only a handful of operators for huge sums, but the court in St Louis ruled that MLB had no right to charge for the right to use sporting statistics in fantasy games. CDM sued, and won even before the case began on a point of law. Appeals will no doubt ensue, but as the WaPo says, if the appellate court confirms the decision then it's rock-hard precedent.

This is a case I have been following with great interest due to my other site, FanFooty, which would be in a similar position to CDM if the Australian Football League ever decided to get serious about fantasy Aussie Rules sites, the numbers of which seem to be growing steadily. The case would not be a slam dunk (to mix sporting metaphors) to also apply in Australia, since we don't have the First Amendment, or the right to publicity, or precedent like the Feist case. Nevertheless, this case along with the recent European ruling that the English FA can not claim copyright over soccer fixtures for the similar purpose of restricting competition among fantasy service providers adds to "the vibe". The uniting force behind the two decisions is that big business - where sport is the business in question - can't use the copyright system to restrict competition in industries which are auxiliary to its own.

Fantasy sports have a history of independent development which is done in spite of, not with the help of, the central sporting organisations. The AFL has demonstrated to me in the last month that it is unwilling to work with anyone who is not a licensed partner, and me in particular. That is par for the course for fantasy sports, becoming a huge underground industry in the US and UK without much in the way of investment or support by the sport industry. I wouldn't expect it to be any different here, but at least now I have more confidence that my hard work won't be undone in a courtroom.

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