Case Closed: FanDuel And DraftKings Did Not Illegally Use Athlete Names And Images
First, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled in favor of DraftKings and FanDuel in a case that concerned whether they need to pay for use of players’ names, images and statistics in their competitions. On November 29, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decided to leave the highest state court opinion as is.
Thus, providers of fantasy sports competitions have nothing to fear when using athletes’ publicity rights for informational purposes, at least in the state of Indiana. However, the position of Indiana would likely be true elsewhere as well.
“Indiana’s right of publicity statute contains an exception for material with newsworthy value that includes online fantasy sports operators’ use of college players’ names, pictures, and statistics for online fantasy contests,” held the Indiana Supreme Court previously.
That said, should FanDuel, DraftKings or another fantasy sports operator ever use an athlete’s name, image or likeness as a commercial endorsement, as opposed to for informational purposes, then a valid right of publicity claim would likely exist.
Interestingly, the Seventh Circuit was also asked by the appellants to consider whether companies like FanDuel and DraftKings have been offering illegal services in the State of Indiana, calling them “criminal gambling syndicates.”
“We have nothing to say on the question whether the business of FanDuel or DraftKings violates Indiana’s criminal laws,” stated the Seventh Circuit. “If a state prosecutor brings such charges, the answer will be for the state judiciary. Because plaintiffs have not tried to take advantage of the opening the state judiciary left them under the right-of-publicity statute, this civil suit is over.”