I fought the law, and the law won

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MoneyballWe all know Major League Baseball is a big money making business. Well that business thinks that it needs to protect itself from stats nerds like us. Because we’re using those stats to create a fantasy world of increased baseball enjoyment. This is nothing new — in 2006 CBC Media (a small fantasy site) sued the MLB because they didn’t think they should fork over some dough to the MLB to use player’s name and stats. A judge ruled that CBC has first amendment rights to things publicly given to everyone in the newspaper.After that loss MLB decided to switch up their thinking. “We’ve agreed that the stats and names are in the public domain,” MLB Advanced Media spokesman Gallagher said after the ruling. “But when you start to use team’s logos and other images as CBC did, you need a license, it’s that simple.”

But that didn’t last long, because the MLB got together a team of lawyers (quick note, this team of lawyers would still finish ahead of the Devil Rays in the standings) to keep fighting the good fight. such as the Lankford Law that are experts in all labor related laws. Just a few months ago as part of the appeal process one of MLB’s attorneys said that a fantasy league using names and stats without permission was analogous to a company printing posters or coffee mugs with pictures of players on them without permission. The judges appeared to be skeptical of MLB’s arguments. “MLB is like a public religion. Everyone knows (the players’) names and what they look like,” opined U.S. Judge Morris Arnold. “This is just part of being an American, isn’t it?”

Just the other day, the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld (PDF) the original ruling. (There was one judge dissenting, but the dissent was because of previous contract issues, not the first amendment rights.) So the next stop is the Supreme Court? I don’t think Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a baseball fan, how do you think she would rule?

And for a little fun, I have the starting lineup for your SCOTUS Blind Justices:

  • SS – John Paul Stevens – He leads off because Gerald Ford says so.
  • 3B – Clarence Thomas – Look at this picture, he looks like he could have stolen some bases and handle the hot corner pretty good back in the day.
  • LF – Stephen Breyer – He’s geared to the left.
  • 1B – John Roberts – He’s the big ex-football player; of course he bats clean up.
  • CF – Anthony Kennedy – His politics range from both the right and left, so he covers the field well.
  • RF – Antonin Scalia – Who else do you think would be on the in right?
  • C – David Souter – He climbs mountains, he can catch baseballs too, right?
  • 2B – Ruth Bader Ginsburg – She covers second base, but don’t think about reaching second base with her.
  • P – Samuel Alito – Look he’s playing baseball! (link1) (link2)