The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled in favor of daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators FanDuel and DraftKings in a case which centers on players rights. Indiana’s right of publicity law states that any aspect of an individual’s right of publicity must not be used for commercial purpose without obtaining their consent.
Background To The Case
Three former collegiate football players claimed their “right of publicity” was violated when FanDuel and DraftKings used their names and statistics in the absence of due consent and compensation.
Former players of Northern Illinois Cameron Stingily and Akeem Daniels, and Nick Stoner of Indiana filed the case in a State Court. In September 2017, it was moved to Indianapolis federal court and was dismissed. The players made an appeal to the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeal which due to lack of precedent, handed the case back to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The Decision
On Wednesday, the Indiana Supreme Court found that the defendants (FanDuel and DraftKings) did not violate state law as the use of the players’ names and data falls within the bounds of “newsworthy material”, and therefore an exception under the right of publicity statute.
Information that is of public interest and carries newsworthy value is excluded in the right of publicity section of Indiana law. The judges unanimously sided with the daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators and did not focus on the “public interest” aspect but instead concentrated on the newsworthy value exemption.
Justice Steven David wrote that the defendants used the information and stats commercially; similar to the way they are published in websites and newspapers across the nation. In forming the decision, Justice David referred to existing case law in relation to the use of similar data.
Even if it is used in the context of commercial contests like fantasy sports games, the newsworthy data maintains its newsworthy value according to the ruling. The DFS operators’ manner of using sports statistics enables fans and consumers to engage with the data in a unique way.
In a statement, R. Stanton Dodge, Chief Legal Officer for DraftKings said “As previous generations engaged with statistics by reviewing box scores and batting leaders in the newspaper, the modern sports fan engages with statistics by and through playing fantasy sports contests. We have maintained, and are pleased that the Indiana Supreme Court agrees, that sports fans engaging with statistics online in fantasy sports contests does not violate the publicity rights of athletes under Indiana law.”
Impact of the Decision
Though the recent ruling does not directly determine the outcome of the debate over official league data in Indiana and in other states, it somehow clarifies the courts’ interpretations of copyright laws as well as how data can be modified and controlled. Thus this ruling might have a number of implications on discussions surrounding sports betting.
Sports Betting Debate
With the expansion of legal sports betting, a number of big professional sports leagues have submitted their proposals for statewide legislation in a bid to gain legislative control over how players’ data are used in fantasy games.
The state this month held a sports betting hearing with testimonies from various industry organizations. Some proposals sparked controversy including a number of requests from the NBA and MLB.
Controversial Requests
NBA’s Dan Spillane laid out the league’s wish list which includes a “royalty fee” to the leagues, allowing leagues to set reasonable betting restrictions, and requiring sportsbooks and betting operators to use official league data.
Though lawmakers have raised eyebrows on the request for compensation, they are considering the leagues’ argument that sportsbooks should only use statistics and information produced by them or their third parties in grading wagers.
The leagues are trying to convince legislators that unofficial data may result in the manipulation of games and wagers that will eventually harm the league. NBA has been constantly warning of the threat posed by in-game wagers to the integrity of the games.
Indiana lawmakers can reflect on the Supreme Court ruling as discussions continue on the expansion of sports betting. It was made clear in the ruling that the court was only providing a narrow answer based on the facts presented.

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