Baseball stats are not intellectual property

For the past couple of years Major League baseball has been fighting a legal battle with a company called CBC Distribution over baseball statistics. MLB has been claiming that the statistics of the players in baseball games has been their intellectual property. This idea is ludicrous on the face of it. MLB did not create anything new with these statistics. Any observer of a ball game can record what they see. They are recording their observations of a public event. For an organization like MLB to lay claim to these observations is like the owner of a beach front hotel claiming copyright on a guests description of a sunset on that beach.

CBC distribution is a company that has been compiling and selling baseball statistics to to people running fantasy baseball leagues. While I have no interest in either baseball or fantasy sports leagues, I think that this whole case has been another case of a big business abusing the intellectual property system. As I have explained before the whole premise of the copyright system is to allow the creators of new or derivative works to have a monopoly on profiting from those works for a limited period of time. This is perfectly reasonable. When someone writes a book or or creates a piece of music, they should have an opportunity to profit from it. When a baseball game is played, and someone records who got hits or made errors, MLB should not have a copyright on that information.

This week U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Medler in St. Louis issued a 49-page summary judgment that dealt a blow against abuse of the copyright system. She ruled that “Baseball and its players have no right to prevent the use of names and playing records”. Hopefully other abusers will see this ruling and realize that they cannot control everything. It is good to see that a judge has exhibited some common sense in an important case like this, and ruled accordingly.

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