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Yahoo Suing NFL Over Fantasy Football Rights

June 4, 2009

Yahoo Inc. is suing the NFL Players Association, insisting that they should not have to pay additional royalties to use players’ statistics and likenesses in fantasy football games because the information is publicly accessible.

The federal lawsuit was filed on Monday in Minneapolis.

The suit says that Yahoo was being threatened if it did not compensate for the data. Even though their licensing agreement with NFL Players Inc. ended March 1, Yahoo feels they don’t need authorization, thanks to a court decision made in April in a comparable quarrel between NFL Players Inc. and CBS Interactive Inc.

The online game allows players to create teams made of real players. During the football season, participants’ monitor their players’ data to evaluate how their team is doing. The judge’s ruling in the CBS Interactive case said that 13 million to 15 million people play the game that grosses about $1 billion annually.

Yahoo’s lawsuit wants the decision that its game does not break any publicity owned or restricted by NFL Players Inc. rules, and that the First Amendment and federal copyright law trumps this nonetheless. It also wants to stop NFL Players Inc. from prying into Yahoo’s businesses, from threatening to sue, or sending statements that Yahoo is stepping on the rights of NFL Players Inc.

NFL Players Association spokesman Carl Francis said they had no comment.

The Major League Baseball Players Association and Major League Baseball Advanced Media did not win a comparable 2007 suit when the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided that the fantasy baseball business CBC Distribution and Marketing Inc. did not have to compensate the players, even it used their names and data for profits.

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