Baseball is a game of numbers: box scores, RBIs, ERAs.
CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason reports every season 4 million fans use those numbers in their own "fantasy baseball" leagues, competing to put together rosters of real life players with the best statistics. But who actually owns the numbers?
Says Charlie Wiegert, of CDM Fantasy Sports, "Our belief is in operating our games, the players' stats are in the public domain. They're printed inside of every newspaper in the country."
Wiegert runs CDM Fantasy Sports, a St. Louis-based Internet game company that's now locked in a David and Goliath legal battle with the Internet arm of Major League Baseball — which operates its own fantasy games.
"We just don't think folks can take a players' name in this instance and use it for a profit," explains MLB.com head Bob Bowman.
Bowman says the statistics are not at issue. "We think CBS, New York Times, they can run the statistics, box scores all you want," he says. "It's about using the players' name and likenesses in a pay for play — a commercial enterprise."
MLB.com pays the players' union $10 million a year for their Internet rights. In turn, it licenses fantasy rights to Web sites like CBS SportsLine and ESPN for a $2 million annual fee.
Wiegert says, "I think to them, this is about money, and about how much money they can make and controlling everything."
Fantasy league operators, especially the smaller unlicensed ones, are watching this case very carefully. If Major League Baseball wins, it could put them out of business.
But a victory for baseball could also risk alienating some of its most rabid fans.
Dan Wawrzonek's league meets in Harrison, N.Y. He says, "I think it's Major League Baseball trying, you know, to make an extra buck."
The fantasy sports sites are trying to make a buck too. Whoever wins the case, it shows the Internet has turned this game of numbers, into a game of profit.
Copyright 2006 CBS. All rights reserved.