MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – CBS Interactive does not have to pay licensing fees to the National Football League Players Association to use players’ names and statistics in CBS’ fantasy games, a federal judge ruled. U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery rules that the information used in the fantasy football game “is all readily available in the public domain, and it would be strange law that a person would not have a First Amendment right to use information that is available to everyone.”
CBS sued the NFLPA on Sept. 3, 2008, seeking extension of an October 2007 ruling on fantasy baseball in the 8th Circuit of Appeals. The 8th Circuit ruled that CBS enjoyed a First Amendment right to use baseball players’ names and records for fantasy games.
Before filing its suit, CBS paid the NFLPA a licensing fee for such rights. Judge Montgomery ruled that the 8th Circuit’s baseball ruling applied to this case.
“The 8th Circuit determined that the fantasy baseball provider used this information as a symbol of the players’ identity and for commercial advantage, and, therefore, such use violated the players’ rights of publicity under Missouri law,” Judge Montgomery wrote.
“The court concluded however that ‘[t]he Supreme Court has directed that state law rights of publicity must be balanced against First Amendment considerations, and here we conclude that the former must give way to the latter.’ … In so concluding, the court noted that the information used in the fantasy football game ‘is all readily available in the public domain, and it would be strange law that a person would not have a first amendment right to use information that is available to everyone.'”
The NFLPA and NFL Players Inc. argued that the Minnesota Federal Court lacked subject matter jurisdiction on the claim against the NFLPA; that summary judgment is premature; and that there are several areas of materials of fact that make this case different from its baseball counterpart. Montgomery rejected all those arguments.
“The package of player information that CBS Interactive uses is no different than that described by the 8th Circuit – it consists of names, player profiles, up-to-date statistics, injury reports, participant blogs, pictures, images, and biographical information,” Montgomery wrote.