Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fantasy Football Season is Coming. Is Your League Legally Prepared?

Mike has reported extensively on the Tom Brady settlement and anticipated 10 years of labor peace in the NFL. For more than 20 million Americans,this means a return of their favorite pastime: fantasy football. Nevertheless, even as fantasy football has become a multi-billion dollar industry, few seem to understand how federal and state laws apply to fantasy sports.

With great pleasure, I thus introduce my newest law review article: A Short Treatise on Fantasy Sports and the Law: How America Regulates it New National Pastime. This article, which will be published in the upcoming edition of the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law, explains how federal and state laws regulate the fantasy sports industry (including fantasy sports host sites, fantasy sports advisory sites, fantasy sports treasury sites, fantasy dispute resolution sites).

Upon conducting my research for this article, here are five interesting tidbits that I learned:

(1) Fantasy sports can be traced back to the early 1960s and a game known as "The Baseball Seminar," which was played by distinguished professors from Harvard University and the University of Michigan.

(2) Not all states agree that fantasy sports leagues are legal. Just ask Randy Bramos: a Florida firefighter who was arrested in 1991 for running a fantasy baseball league (all charges against him were ultimately dropped).

(3) Of all states, Montana has the most complex, and perhaps most insightful, way of regulating fantasy sports leagues. Under the Montana statute, fantasy sports host sites are only allowed to charge up to 15% of league entry fees as administrative fees for running a league. This rule may place certain CBS Sports fantasy games on the wrong side of Montana state law.

(4) Certain scoring systems in fantasy sports games are patentable. Indeed, there was an 2002 case in the Federal Circuit involving alleged patent infringement in the fantasy sports industry.

(5) If your employer does not allow you to solicit fantasy sports membership, it may be for good reason. A 2000 Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals case found it to be discriminatory for an employer to allow workplace solicitation during the workday of fantasy sports membership, but not union membership. Thus, if an employer wants to prevent employees from soliciting union membership, the employer should also prevent employees from soliciting fantasy football membership.

For those interested in reading my full article about fantasy sports and the law, again, it is available for download here.