C.B.C. Distribution & Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P., 443 F.Supp.2d 1077, 80 U.S.P.Q.2d (BNA) 1241 (E.D. Mo. 2006) (full-text).
CDM Fantasy Sports had a license agreement with the Major League Baseball’s Player’s Association under which it used the names and playing records of Major League Baseball players in its online fantasy baseball games. When the license expired in 2004, Major League Baseball suggested that the company could no longer offer its fantasy baseball games. CDM Fantasy Sports filed a declaratory relief action against Major League Baseball. The Players Association intervened in the case on the side of the League.
Trial Court Ruling
In response to cross-motions for summary judgment, Judge 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 statistics.
The judge also ruled that the First Amendment applies to Fantasy Sports’ fantasy baseball games, so that even if the players’ did have a right of publicity in their names and playing records, Fantasy Sports would have a free speech right to use them.
The 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 policy.
As a result, the judge ordered the Players’ Association and the League not to interfere with Fantasy Sports’ fantasy baseball games.