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Fantasy: mlb takes control of fantasy baseball

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posted on Feb, 9 2005 @ 06:23 AM
i don't know how this will effect the yahoo leagues if at all

Fantasy stats part of legal game
By Michael Hiestand, USA TODAY
Online fantasy baseball, at least when it comes to officially licensed games, is in limbo.
Generally, online sites aren't accepting players signing up for the upcoming season. But that lull isn't likely to last. Next week, Major League Baseball is expected to decrease the number of outlets offering its officially licensed fantasy games — even as one game-maker is challenging MLB's authority to license anybody.

CDM Fantasy Sports filed a suit Monday against MLB in a federal court in St. Louis. (Last year CDM provided online baseball games used by USA TODAY, but this year those games will not be available at

The lawsuit's gist, CDM lawyer Rudy Telscher says, is pretty simple: Can anybody own statistics?

He concedes one needs MLB licenses for trademarked material. "And we're fine with not being able to use logos and bells and whistles where they have rights. The question, which hasn't been decided by any court, is whether the mere use of bare statistics associated with players is a violation."

Telscher argues such statistics are in the public domain — like names in telephone books.

First amendment lawyer Robert Corn-Revere, not associated with the case, suggests CDM might have a point: "It's generally true that the law doesn't allow you to own information in its raw form and exclude others to use it."

But CDM vice president Charlie Wiegert suggests another reason for the suit: MLB "is about to put the whole fantasy industry at risk."

Bob Bowman, who oversees MLB Advanced Media, disagrees. MLB recently paid an estimated $50 million over five years to the MLB players union to take control of online fantasy licensing. And Bowman says there's only one goal: "We want more fans playing more fantasy baseball."

Bowman suggests MLB might end up with four or five major sites, as well as, that will be officially licensed, down from about 13. About 12 small-scale sites draw fewer than 5,000 players and are expected to retain licenses.

Greg Ambrosius, president of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, suggests giving fewer consumer choices isn't likely to increase consumption: "It would be tough to take all the fantasy choices now available and put them under just a few umbrellas."

Ambrosius, who manages an online fantasy game charging $1,250 a player, says at least 150 sites offer fantasy baseball — with about 10 million players in the USA.

Bowman, estimating 2.5 million Americans now play fantasy baseball, counters that what's needed is innovation, such as fantasy games where players get online video highlights and news updates via cell phone about their rosters.

And it's not uncommon for sports leagues to thin out the ranks of its licensees, such as when the NFL let Reebok handle sales for all its game jerseys and Electronic Arts handle its video games. Says Bowman, "It appears that licensors think they can create a bigger business by concentrating licensees."

What's certain: Online fantasy baseball is more than just a game

posted on Feb, 9 2005 @ 10:02 AM
could this the beginning of the end for fantasy sports?

posted on Feb, 9 2005 @ 05:30 PM
What a load of crap. Why would they even want to do this? Fantasy sports imrove the popularity of the sport they take the stats from. Idiotic.

posted on Feb, 10 2005 @ 09:22 PM
some people worry about George W. Bush wanting to take over the world, the real threat is MLB and that moron that runs it, Bud Selig. they are after everything, or want their cut, does anyone else notice some mafia like tactics here?

posted on Feb, 11 2005 @ 09:30 AM
do you think that they want their cut cause they dont make nearly as much as the nfl?

posted on Feb, 11 2005 @ 04:33 PM
I think it's just that Selig is a friggin idiot.

posted on Feb, 16 2005 @ 06:47 PM
here is an article that explains in a bit more detail what is going on with fantasy baseball...let's keep our fingers crossed that yahoo stays free

Fantasy Firefight
When IP Meets WHIP

by Neil deMause

Let's get this out of the way up front: No matter what you may have heard, Major League Baseball is not trying to assert its intellectual property rights to all baseball statistics. The jackbooted thugs beholden to Commissioner Bud are not about to kick down your door, brandishing copies of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and demanding that you surrender your PECOTA spreadsheet. Not this week, anyway.

That's the good news, such as it is. The worrisome news, if you're a fantasy baseball player used to having innumerable online options to feed your addiction, is that MLB has decided to dramatically restructure how it licenses companies that run fantasy games on the Web. Official licensees will now likely be restricted to a Big Three of ESPN, CBS Sportsline and Yahoo! (some reports add AOL and The Sporting News as well), plus so-called "mom and pop" shops that will be henceforth limited to 5,000 customers apiece. For everyone else, it's likely to be a choice of scaling back their operations, closing up shop, or receiving a visit from MLB's lawyers.

Those two paragraphs, I realize, may sound contradictory. If fantasy sports sites are essentially just stats services, how can MLB shut them down for publishing the same thing that appears free of charge in every newspaper in the nation? It seems a sensible enough question on the face of it, but then, these are the intellectual property wars, where common sense is generally the first casualty.

The whole kerfuffle began last month when the players union cut a deal with MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), the same folks who brought you the revolutionary service that lets you watch any team's game on your computer except the ones you actually want to see (I probably watched more games pitched last year by my fantasy starters Roy Oswalt and Odalis Perez than I did by anyone on my hometown Yankees). In exchange for a payment of $50 million over five years, the MLBPA transferred selected rights to player names and images to MLBAM, which would use them in cutting deals with companies seeking to put out fantasy games (the union retained licensing rights for other products).

The consequences first came to public notice when CDM, a longstanding fantasy baseball site--it has run games for the likes of USA Today and The Sporting News, among others--applied for a license, the same as they'd done every year when the MLBPA still ran the show. This time, though, they were rejected.

As CDM Vice President Charlie Wiegert tells it, MLBAM had sent out a request for proposals from all companies that had been licensed in previous years. "On Friday [February] 4th we get an e-mail back from them that they're not going to grant us a license to operate fantasy baseball games this year," said Wiegert. "The only option that they gave us was we could send our customers to them, and if our customers signed up to play their games, they'd give us a 10% royalty."

CDM promptly sued, hiring a lawyer who'd successfully defended a client who'd published his own phone book by copying names and numbers out of a competitor's white pages. Their argument is simple: They're just providing an "accounting function" by supplying stats to fantasy players, more convenient but no different than scouring the news Web sites each night and tallying up player totals by hand.

MLB's licensing arm, though, has been careful never to assert the rights to stats, saying its only concern is with the use of player names. As Wiegert himself admits: "[MLBAM president Bob Bowman] says the stats are in the public domain, he doesn't have a problem with that. It's when you use the player names that he has a problem with, especially for a commercial purpose."

The legal issue here is something called the "right of publicity," a concept enshrined in various state laws dating back to the early 19th century. These are the laws that, for example, allowed Arnold Schwarzenegger to sue the maker of unauthorized bobblehead dolls depicting the governor of California brandishing an assault rifle (though in Ahnold's case it didn't work out too well).

The line being drawn is between news and commerce. As one online law reference notes, the First Amendment defends your right to put a picture of Madonna on your front cover if your magazine has an article about her in it; if your magazine is about casket gaskets, though, you can't slap The Artist Currently Known As Esther on there just because you want to sell a few more copies. This same distinction explains why your daily newspaper can run boxscores with player and team names, but Harold Richman has to cough up a license fee to the MLBPA for every Strat-o-Matic set he issues.

So are fantasy sites reporting news, or engaging in commerce? Most rational observers--again, the usual caveats apply about mixing rational thinking with intellectual property law--would probably say "both," which is where the law gets murky. The best precedent anyone can cite is NBA v. Motorola and Stats Inc., a 1997 case where the basketball league sued to stop a service providing real-time score updates via--man, does this ever date it--pagers. Motorola's cutting-edge score-by-pager service was more clearly a news service, whereas fantasy baseball is...well, fantasy baseball. Since stats are public domain and stats make no sense without player names, fantasy companies would seem to have a good case that using names is "fair use" and not promotion. But then, these aren't exactly the glory days of fair use, as you'll have found out if you tried to find a copy of Eyes on the Prize lately.

Further complicating the whole mess is the fact that outside of a few big-name companies, most fantasy baseball sites operated for years without ever getting licenses to use player names. Greg Ambrosius of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association estimates that only 12 of his group's 182 members were licensed by MLBPA in the past. Bill Meyer, who's been running USA Stats (the "Official Stat Service for Rotisserie League Baseball," as long as we're keeping intellectual-property count) since 1980, says: "Every couple of years I'd get a call or an e-mail from [the union], and they'd ask me to be licensed. I'd ask what authority they had, and they said they'd get back to me. I'm still waiting for them to explain to me why I have to write them a check."

Meanwhile, the fantasy-baseball landscape has certainly changed, but exactly how is still very much up in the air. CDM plans to defy the baseball owners and run its site without a license pending resolution of its lawsuit. According to Ambrosius, others are still mulling the various options open to them, including taking the 10% commission deal or scaling back to 5,000 customers. An additional holdup for many, he says, is the contract being offered by MLBAM, which among other things demands that companies turn over their customer database to MLB: "The two dollars per customer sure makes it sound good, but it's not an easy slam dunk." Among the big names still on the bubble is Fox Sports; MLBAM, for its part, says to expect more license announcements in coming days.

Meanwhile, MLB will charge ahead with its official Fantasy Baseball Opening Day tomorrow, even if half the contracts are still unsigned. One thing to watch for will be if the Big Three (Or So) try to pass along their reported $3 million licensing fees to fantasy consumers (while the MLB-enforced limits on competition would seem likely to drive prices up, it does help somewhat that companies are being charged a flat fee, not per-customer, which provides less of an incentive to jack up fees). As one data point, Yahoo!'s popular free service, a subject of much speculation among concerned Roto-heads in recent weeks, looks to have survived the new regime, if the teaser posted to Yahoo!'s Web site this morning is any indication.

The broader implication, though, is for baseball's future marketing overall. As Ambrosius says, when you limit your licensees, "at that point, you can certainly get the major sponsors to say, this is only one of three or four major commissioner services out there, this is where we can get your image out in front of everybody." What we're seeing is the dawning realization that companies will pay a premium to be part of a cartel, so it's better to divvy up the spoils among a limited number of partners than to allow all comers a piece of the pie.

Gosh, I wonder where they got that idea?

posted on Feb, 16 2005 @ 07:38 PM
What is happening to sports?????

I just finished a post about how pissed off I am that the NHL sissies canceled their season.

Now I read this, I've been a CDM Sports customer for over 10 years and now I read that MLB declined their license to run a fantasy baseball league? Am I dreaming here? WTF?

We have players on steroids, players jumping in the stands to fight the fans who pay their salaries, what is going on in the sports world??

posted on Feb, 17 2005 @ 06:27 AM
Fantasy licensees named; signups begin Thursday
From staff reports
The fantasy guessing game is ending and fantasy signup season is beginning.
After several frustrating weeks of not knowing whether their favorite company will be offering games this year, millions of fantasy baseball players nationwide finally will be able to register to play in the 2005 season Thursday as announced the names of several of its licensing partners. ESPN, Yahoo!, CBS Sportsline, AOL and The Sporting News are among the companies who were granted licenses.

Those companies have posted notices on their sites indicating they will begin accepting signups Thursday, some of them as soon as 12:01 a.m. ET.

In January, Major League Baseball purchased the licensing rights to player names from the Major League Baseball Players Association. In past years, fantasy companies secured rights from MLBPA, and this year MLB restricted fantasy companies from opening up their games for signups until new licensing arrangements were completed. Last week, MLB set Feb. 17 as the Opening Day for fantasy, when all companies awarded licenses could accept signups., the official Web site of Major League Baseball, announced a preliminary list of fantasy game licensees for 2005 on Wednesday. In addition to those mentioned above, the list includes STATS, Inc, WhatIfSports, Baseball Manager, MJM Fantasy Sports, Fanstar Sports, Fantasy Sports Reality, All America Fantasy Sports, iTV Entertainment, RotoPlay, Sports Buff, The Fantasy Jungle, Electronic Ballpark, Inc. and Strat-O-Matic. The company said it expects to name several other licensees in the next few days.

MLB released no word on the terms of the licensing agreements.

"We are especially pleased that every fantasy game licensee from last year, with only one exception, will be part of the 2005 fantasy game licensing program," said George Kliavkoff, senior vice president of business development for Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM), the interactive media and Internet company of Major League Baseball. "In addition, we expect the number of licensees this year to increase more than 50% over last year."

Kliavkoff did not name the exception. But CDM Sports, which opened up its games for signups and filed a federal lawsuit Feb. 7 against MLBAM, is seeking a declaratory judgment that it is not infringing upon MLB's rights. CDM's argument is that player names and statistics are part of the public domain.

Last year, CDM operated fantasy baseball games that appeared on; is not offering those games at this time.

Among the notable other companies not included on MLBAM's list of approved licensees so far are Sandbox and RotoWire

posted on Feb, 17 2005 @ 04:05 PM
You know, I've never really been a huge baseball fan. It's shyte like this, on top of the whole steroid issue, that makes me wonder why I eve want to try and follow this damn sport.

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