7th Circuit: Fantasy sports right to publicity battle over

A civil suit brought by three former college football players against online fantasy-sports companies FanDuel and DraftKings has officially ended, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

Southern District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt in October 2017 dismissed a case brought by former Indiana University receiver Nick Stoner and ex-University of Northern Illinois players Akeem Daniels and Cameron Stingily. They sued daily fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel for using their names, likeness and statistics without their permission. 

The men attempted to seek damages under Indiana’s right-of-publicity statute, alleging Indiana’s law gave them control over the commercial use of their names, but those arguments were denied.

Despite the Indiana Supreme Court’s answer last month to a certified question posed by the 7th Circuit Court in March that found the players names, likeness and statistics bore the resemblance to information published in newspapers and online, and was therefore within the statutory exception for material of “newsworthy value,” the plaintiffs requested the 7th Circuit Court remand on a different argument.

“Instead they want a remand so that they can argue that the defendant’s entire business model is criminal and that the state judiciary would not apply the statutory ‘newsworthy value’ exception to criminal activities,” Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote for the panel Thursday in Akeem Daniels v. FanDuel, Inc., et al., 17-3051.

“We have nothing to say on the question of whether the business of FanDuels or DraftKings violates Indiana’s criminal laws. If a state prosecutor brings such charges, the answer will be for the state judiciary,” Easterbrook continued. “Because the 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.”

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