WHO OWNS FACTS? Major League Baseball has apparently decided that it not only owns the rights to broadcast baseball games but owns the statistics as well, so it can shut down unlicensed commercial fantasy baseball operations. Personally, I'd be thrilled if fantasy baseball gets wiped off the planet, but that's neither here nor there. If this is correct, then presumably MLB can shut down noncommercial fantasy games too. Or, for that matter, non-fantasy commercial uses of baseball statistics -- like, you know, when the sports section of your local newspaper runs the box score. Apparently, a couple of years ago MLB decided it was, in fact, illegal to transmit statistics in real-time.

The controlling principle in all of these iterations ought to be that you can't copyright facts, a core element of free speech. That anyone could find MLB's positions here even remotely plausible goes to show how far we've let copyright expand in other realms, to the point where the idea of a public domain of information free for all to use is starting to seem quaint.

--Matthew Yglesias

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