INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Legal Newsline) – The Indiana Supreme Court has answered a question submitted to it by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a case between fantasy sports operators and the use of personalities of former collegiate athletes.
Former collegiate student-athletes Akeem Daniels, Cameron Stingily and Nicholas Stoner had filed suit against online fantasy sport giants FanDuel Inc. and DraftKings Inc. alleging that their names and statistical performances were used without their consent and that they should be compensated for such use. The trio had claimed the use was in violation of Indiana's right of publicity statute.
The Seventh Circuit asked the Indiana Supreme Court the following: "Whether online fantasy sports operators that condition entry on payment, and distribute cash prizes, need the consent of players whose names, pictures, and statistics are used in the contests, in advertising the contests, or both."
Justice Steven David responded Oct. 24.
"In short, we answer this question narrowly and find online fantasy sports operators that condition entry to contests on payment and distribute cash prizes do not violate the Indiana right of publicity statute when those organizations use the names, pictures, and statistics of players without their consent because the use falls within the meaning of 'material that has newsworthy value,' an exception under the statute."
According to court ruling, Daniels, Stingily and Stoner were collegiate student–athletes between 2014-2016. Their on-field performances were "collected as numerical statistics and published by various fantasy sports website operators including DraftKings and FanDuel," the ruling states.
The trio filed a class action lawsuit in Marion County in 2017 alleging that DraftKings and FanDuel "used their names and likenesses in operating and promoting online fantasy sports contests without their' consent, and that doing so was a violation of their right of publicity under Indiana law,” the ruling states.
DraftKings and FanDuel removed the case to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and moved to dismiss the case with the argument that the plaintiffs failed to state a claim on which relief could be granted, citing that their names and statistics "fell under certain statutory exceptions to the right of publicity," the ruling states.
"The district court dismissed the suit, finding no violation of the players right of publicity because the use of their likenesses was in material that had newsworthy value and was a matter of public interest under the exceptions in Indiana Code...," according to the ruling.
The plaintiffs then appealed to the Seventh Circuit.