Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

No 'Right of Publicity' in the Names and Statistics of Major League Baseball Players

Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

No 'Right of Publicity' in the Names and Statistics of Major League Baseball Players

Article excerpt

A US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri ruled on 8 August, 2006 that there is no 'property right'--known in the US as a 'right of publicity' and known elsewhere generally as an 'image right'-in the names and statistics of Major League Basketball (MLB) players.

Dismissing a claim by the MLB, the Court held that there is no legal right to control the name and likeness of the compiled profiles of individual players, and, therefore, the commercial use of them by 'fantasy league' operators was quite lawful. In other words, such operators did not need a licence from the MLB; they were free to exploit the players' names and statistics for commercial purposes.

The Court went further and also held that, even if the players did have a 'right of publicity', the right of freedom of expression, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution, takes precedence over any such right. In fact, as Prof John Wolohan as pointed in 'Sports Image Rights in Europe' (Blackshaw & Siekmann, Eds., 2005 TMC Asser Press, The Hague, The Netherlands), the First Amendment looks beyond written and spoken works as mediums of expression and, therefore, grants visual expression the same legal status as the written word. …

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