Morris Communications v. PGA Tour: Battle over the Rights to Real-Time Sports Scores
14 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2010
Date Written: July, 13 2010
Real-time sports scores appeal to a wide range of consumers, from high-stakes gamblers to casual fans. These scores therefore represent a significant potential source of revenues for sports conglomerates. This potential has created a competitive market for the scores and has led to litigation over who controls the right to disseminate and thereby profit from the information. Parties seeking to compete in the market have proceeded on different legal theories, including misappropriation, anticompetitive behavior, and copyright infringement. Sports scores do not fit neatly into any intellectual property definition, and the only two cases to deal with the issue to date - NBA v. Motorola, Inc. and Morris Communications v. PGA Tour - based their holdings on different theories. While the Motorola court determined that real-time sports scores are mere facts that no one can own, the PGA Tour court suggested that a compilation of scores constitutes property that the company who created the compilation may legally protect.
This Note explores legal tactics and theories applicable to controversies over real-time sports scores. Part I describes the most recent case in the field, PGA Tour. Part II discusses two legal regimes that parties have used in attempts to create or deny ownership of real-time sports scores: the Sherman Act and the doctrine of misappropriation. In Part III, this Note compares the Second Circuit's treatment of real-time sports scores in Motorola to the Eleventh Circuit's analysis in PGA Tour, and concludes that, although both emphasized free-riding as central to their holdings, the courts ultimately based their decisions on varying interpretations of property issues. Next, the Note analyzes these underlying property issues and contemplates how they may inform future attempts to protect real-time sports scores, ending with an examination of the broader interests of consumers and producers in the dissemination of real-time sports scores.
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