Concerned about threats that it would be sued, Yahoo Inc., became the second major fantasy sports provider to sue the NFL Players union over use of players' names and statistics in its fantasy football games.
The suit filed in federal court in Minneapolis on Monday is similar to one filed by CBS Interactive on behalf of Fort Lauderdale-based CBSSports.com last year. A federal judge ruled in CBS’ favor on April 28, saying the players’ names and stats are protected by the First Amendment.
That ruling followed an earlier federal appeals court decision that said Major League Baseball players’ names and stats are in the public domain. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear that case.
Last week, the NFL Players Association and its marketing arm, Players Inc., appealed the ruling in the CBS case.
Yahoo, whose last licensing agreement with Players Inc., expired March 1, cites the CBS ruling in its suit. Yahoo believes the ruling should apply to all fantasy providers, just as the judge in the CBS case ruled the baseball ruling also applies to football.
“In the CBSI case, the court held that the provider of a fantasy football game did not require a license from Players Inc. in order to operate a game that used player names, statistics, images and other information,” Yahoo’s case states.
The Yahoo case was filed in Minneapolis, which is where the both the baseball case and the CBS case were decided. Friendly courts, anyone?
The Fantasy Sports Trade Association is supporting Yahoo’s case, but as it has said repeatedly, it hopes the leagues and game providers can work together to promote fantasy gaming.
“The fact that the NFL Players Association continues to demand licensing fees is disheartening news for the industry, and for fantasy sports participants,” FSTA President Paul Charchian said in a statement. “The Players’ Association is seemingly oblivious to the obvious and tangible benefits derived from the proliferation of fantasy sports, along with the many cases that have already been decided in favor of fantasy operators. While the FSTA will support Yahoo in this case, we also hope to cooperate with each of the players’ associations to help maximize fantasy sports products.”