DraftKings and FanDuel are winners. The Indiana Supreme Court decided in their favor this past Wednesday in a case that pitted the daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators against a trip of former college football players. The victory could prove to be beneficial for sports gambling across the country.
The two companies, which recently started moving into the sports gambling space, had been sued by the players over an alleged violation of their “right of publicity” under Indiana law. However, the court ruled that there had been no violation because the information – data such as player statistics and names – are covered by an exception to the law. The information, asserted the court, is exempt per a caveat that allows “material that has newsworthy value” to be used, irrespective of the fact that the information was used for commercial purposes.
Per the courts, “Considering the arguments presented in this case, Defendants’ use of players’ names, images, and statistics in conducting fantasy sports competitions bears resemblance to the publication of the same information in newspapers and websites across the nation. We agree that, “it would be strange law that a person would not have a first amendment right to use information that is available to everyone.” C.B.C. Distribution and Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball, 505 F.3d 818, 823 (8th Cir. 2007).
“This information is not stripped of its newsworthy value simply because it is placed behind a paywall or used in the context of a fantasy sports game. On the contrary, fantasy sports operators use factual data combined with a significant, creative component that allows consumers to interact with the data in a unique way. Although fictional salary values are assigned to players, this does not change the function of the underlying data. It is difficult to find that the use of this otherwise publicly available information is somehow drastically different such that it should be placed outside the definition of ‘newsworthy.’”
In simple terms, this could ultimately mean that sportsbooks can use player information legally without having to have permission from players, or without having to pay them compensation for the use. It should be reiterated that the decision only applies to current Indiana law, but it’s almost certain that lawyers across the country are now scouring legal doctrine to determine whether or not they can expect to see similar filings in their jurisdictions.