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Monday, April 05, 2004
 

Court Upholds PGA's Right to Real-Time Scores: A unanimous panel of the 11th Circuit has affirmed a granting of summary judgment in the Morris Communications v. PGA Tour case. The case dealt with the issue of whether the PGA Tour could prevent media outlets from selling compiled real-time golf scores to third parties violated antitrust law. The Tour has employees at each whole of its tournaments that collect real-time scores for placement on its website. Once the data is collected and posted, it is made available for dissemination by the news media. The Tour balked, however, at the attempt of Morris to sell the information to a third-party, who then wanted to create a rival website also containing real-time tournament scores.

The court made clear that this was an anti-trust case only, and did not deal with copyright law or the 1st Amendment. The scores are a product, which the PGA Tour has a right to control. The opinion states in part (internal citations removed):

    The compiled real-time golf scores acquired through RTSS are not a product that Morris has a right to sell because they are a derivative product of RTSS, which PGA owns exclusively. We agree with the district court that PGA "has a right to sell or license its product, championship golf, and its derivative product, [compiled] golf scores, on the Internet in the same way the [PGA] currently sells its rights to television broadcasting stations."

    If Morris wishes to sell PGA's product, it must first purchase it from PGA. Section 2 of the Sherman Act does not require PGA to give its product freely to its competitors. PGA is willing to sell its product to its competitors, including Morris, thereby allowing credentialed media organizations like Morris to syndicate compiled real-time golf scores after paying a licensing fee to PGA. Accordingly, we conclude from the record that PGA has satisfied its burden to show a valid business justification.

Jeff Mishkin, a renowned "sports lawyer" of Skadden Arps represented the PGA Tour. You can read more here.





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