DraftKings, FanDuel prevail over former college athletes in likeness lawsuit

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of daily fantasy companies DraftKings and FanDuel, who were the defendants in a case brought against them by three former college athletes.

Former Northern Illinois running backs Akeem Daniels and Cameron Stingily and former Indiana wide receiver Nicholas Stoner accused the two sites of using their names -- and thousands of other athletes' names -- in their games without their permission and using them in advertising.

Although Indiana's right of publicity law states that a company can't use a person's name or likeness without permission, the five judges unanimously agreed that the use of names, pictures and stats by DraftKings and FanDuel has a "newsworthy value" and therefore is not subject to the publicity law.

"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 game," Indiana Supreme Court Judge Steven H. David wrote in the opinion. "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."

On the players' claim that the sites engaged in unauthorized advertising, the court deferred to the federal case in 2006 in which a company called CBC Distribution prevailed over Major League Baseball.

MLB was seeking to force fantasy companies to pay for licenses for players' names. Not only did the court rule that the players' rights of publicity were waived when tied to statistics, but it also ruled that use of the players in advertising associated with fantasy doesn't imply any business relationship because a full roster of players is used in the game.

"Sports statistics -- and the ability for all fans to freely access them -- has always been at the center of the American sports experience," DraftKings chief legal officer R. Stanton Dodge said in a statement. "As previous generations engaged with statistics by reviewing box scores and batting leaders in the newspaper, the modern sports fan engages with statistics by playing fantasy sports contests."