Roto-Nerds of the World Rejoice as Fantasy Football Site Spikes NFL in Court

Can you imagine paying licensing fees to use Alex Smith's stats?
Aficionados of Pleistocene-era sports video games may remember how "Player No. 16" on the nameless San Francisco team with crimson uniforms was really good -- but the lack of licensing fees forbade any notion of the terms "Joe Montana," or "49ers."

That won't happen anytime soon with fantasy football as a recent court ruling found CBS Interactive does not have to pay licensing agreements to the National Football League when it uses players' names and statistics in online fantasy football leagues. So, no, roto-nerds will not have to resort to drafting No. 18 from Indianapolis or No. 21 from San Francisco or go back to the bad old days of cribbing game statistics from the newspaper agate page.

(Incidentally, yours truly may have been the only agate clerk in San Francisco Examiner history who didn't amuse his friends by inserting their names among the players released by NFL teams on cut day in the "Sports Transactions" section).

Minnesota District Court Judge Ann Montgomery found that all information used in fantasy football games is "readily available in the public domain, and it would be strange law that a person would not have a First Amendment right to use information that is available to everyone." The judge offered no ruling on the matter of endzone dances.

Interestingly, the legal precedent Montgomery relied upon was a 2007 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling noting that CBS had a First Amendment right to use baseball players' names and stats for fantasy baseball games. While football players will slog through injuries that sideline baseball players for months -- two weeks for a blister on your pitching hand! -- the judge ruled that baseball and football are essentially identical for these purposes.

In other football news, the San Francisco 49ers have appealed a federal court ruling that the statistics from their 2007 campaign are obscene.

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