The National Basketball Association and NBA Properties, Inc. v. Motorola, Inc., 105 F.3d 841, Decided 1997 by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Facts: Motorola manufactures a paging device called SportsTrax that transmits game information to users. In the “current” setting, the pager displays real time game statistics, including the name of the teams, the score as it changes, which team has possession of the ball, and the time remaining in the game. The information is updated every two to three minutes, and the time it takes to transmit information is also two to three minutes.
Issue: In this case, the NBA is appealing an injunction issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against the sale of Motorola’s SportsTrax. The NBA believes that Motorola is misappropriating their property by transmitting real time game information to their users.
Holding: The court vacated the injunction of the District Court and reversed the misappropriation claim.
Rationale: The dismissal of the misappropriation claim was largely due to preemption by the Copyright Act. The issue of new technology transmitting information was first seen in the International News Service v. The Associated Press case in 1918. Both parties were wire services that transmitted news to member newspapers. INS was lifting stories from AP and using them in INS newspapers. The Supreme Court ruled that INS was misappropriating AP’s property.
As technology advanced, sports games and other events were broadcasted to the public. The general understanding was that these events were not copyrightable, at least not until new legislation passed in 1976. That year Congress granted copyright protection to live broadcasts of sports events. Along with this, the amendments “also contained provisions preempting state law claims that enforced rights ‘equivalent’ to exclusive copyright protections when the work to which the state claim...
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