MLB strikes out in effort to shut down fantasy baseball business

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court refused today to step into a dispute between a fantasy sports business and professional baseball.

Without comment, the justices declined to hear the case involving a segment of the $1.5 billion fantasy sports industry in the United States, in which participants manage imaginary teams based on the real-life performances of professional players.

The lawsuit involves C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing Inc., a Missouri company unable to obtain a license from a subsidiary of Major League Baseball to use players' names and statistics in C.B.C.'s fantasy baseball games.

The Missouri company sued, saying it did not need a license to continue to sell its fantasy baseball games on its Web site.

The baseball players' union jumped into the case on the league's side, alleging a state law violation of the players' publicity rights — the ability to profit from the commercial use of a person's name.

A federal judge and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled in favor of the fantasy baseball business, saying that enforcing state law rights would violate C.B.C.'s right of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

"We're considering our options," union spokesman Greg Bouris said.

Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the MLB subsidiary, declined comment.

"We are continuing our policy from previous decisions in referring comment to the (Players Association) as our position here is one of a licensee of the rights with term set to expire at the end of this year," MLBAM spokesman Matt Gould said.

The National Football League Players Association supported professional baseball's request that the Supreme Court hear the case.

The case is Major League Baseball Advanced Media v. C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc. 07-1099.