July 2006 Volume 28 Number 2
sports company does not violate the rights of publicity of Major League Baseball
players by using their names and playing records in online fantasy baseball game
Fantasy Sports has succeeded with its claim that its use of the names and
playing records of Major League Baseball players in its online fantasy baseball
games does not violate the rights of publicity of those players. Federal
Magistrate Judge Mary Ann Medler has so ruled, in response to cross-motions for
summary judgment in a declaratory relief lawsuit filed by Fantasy Sports against
Major League Baseball.
Sports filed the lawsuit when the League suggested the company could no longer
offer its own fantasy baseball games after the company’s licensing agreement
with the Players Association expired at the end of 2004. The Players Association
intervened in the case on the side of the League.
Medler found that the players do not have a right of publicity in their names
and playing records, and that even if they did, Fantasy Sports' use of their
names and playing records in its fantasy games did not violate the players’
claimed rights. Key to that ruling was the fact that Fantasy Sports did not use
the players’ images – simply their names and publicly-known playing stats.
judge also ruled that the First Amendment applies to Fantasy Sports’ fantasy
baseball games, so that even if the players’ did have rights of publicity in
their names and playing records, Fantasy Sports would have a free speech right
to use them.
now-expired license agreement between Fantasy Sports and the Players’
Association contained a provision that prohibited the company from using
players’ names and playing records after it expired. It also had a
“no-challenge” clause that barred Fantasy Sports from challenging the
players’ rights. Nevertheless, Judge Medler rejected the Players’
Association’s reliance on the contract, on the grounds that the
“no-challenge” provision was unenforceable for reasons of “public
a result, the judge ordered the Players’ Association and the League not to
interfere with Fantasy Sports’ fantasy baseball games.
Distribution and Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P.,
WL 2263993, 2006
U.S.Dist.LEXIS 55060 (E.D.Mo.