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Are game statistics public domain?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by apeman33, Sep 12, 2012.

  1. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    Seems like an odd question, I know. But here's the situation:

    Last Friday night, I attended a road football game for the main high school in my coverage area. Due to the rain, I kept track of the game from under a tent the radio station set up in the middle of the bleachers (the home school hasn't been letting fans sit there for a quite a while now because the integrity of the structure has been compromised but felt three or four people wouldn't be an issue). The regular high school statistician walked the sideline using a voice recorder.

    My story ran in the print edition Saturday morning but there was no room for the box score, so I posted that in the online version and intended to run it in print Tuesday in the agate section (no Monday paper here).

    On Wednesday, the high school stats guy sent out the stats he compiled for the game. He and I were a ways off, roughly 20 yards for both teams, which I expected since we were keeping track with different methods and he would have had more time to go over his.

    Also on Wednesday, the competing weekly came out with a story on the same game. The reporter was not present at the game as far as I know. His story has no quotes. And his statistics match mine exactly. So my thought is that he used my stats by getting them off our website.

    So is this plagarism or are statistics fair game?
  2. writingump

    writingump Member

    My instinct is that stats are fair game, unlike a story or quotes. But if someone can come up with a convincing argument why they shouldn't be, I'm willing to reconsider.
  3. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    While there's likely little doubt the information was copied directly from your website, the problem you will run into is that copyright law doesn't protect facts or data (we researched this a couple years back trying to update our weather page and online weather service). The fine line here is that you've collected the data and done the work and presented it your way. But once you put your stats out there as fact basically they become public domain, so even if you could make a case for plagiarism, it would be difficult to make a charge stick.
  4. fossywriter8

    fossywriter8 Well-Known Member

    I'd go with fair game also, though it would be better if another paper called you and asked for you to send them, as a professional courtesy.
    We exchange box scores in various sports with several papers all the time, whether they're our competition or not.
    It was really nice several years ago when The (Toledo) Blade paid us for box scores we sent them. The paper stopped doing that a while back. Those could be some nice monthly or quarterly checks.
  5. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    Thanks. I'm just looking to make sure. I noticed how they were exact and my managing editor was advising me to go to our publisher with it. I figured I'd ask around before I did.
  6. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Years ago, we had a radio reporter we knew was flat-out taking his morning reports straight off our pages. I'm driving in and he's talking about one of the local college teams and he has their record wrong. I get to the office and, sure enough, we had it wrong, too. Or more accurately, we had it wrong first.

    Sketchy, yeah, but probably doesn't rise to the level of flat-out stealing. Just funny that they obviously didn't bother to check. Or call and say, hey, can we use your stats?
  7. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member


    A fantasy baseball website sued MLB and won a ruling that names and statistics are in the public domain and cannot be copyrighted or licensed. I figure this is the same issue here. So you're out of luck.
  8. apeman33

    apeman33 Well-Known Member

    Good enough for me guys. I won't bother with sending anything along to the publisher. It was good to get some second opinions before I did.
  9. Cubbiebum

    Cubbiebum Member

    Agree with everyone else. It's unprofessional for the other reporter to not call and give you the courtesy of asking but we all know time constraints and too much work are part of the job.
  10. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    He plagiarized.

    Had you used the home team stats and he picked them up from you, no issue.

    *Your* stats are proprietary information.
  11. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    You might want to look up the definition of proprietary information.
  12. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    Plagiarism might be too strong, but what the weekly guy did was seedy and unethical. The home team has a statistician. To not get the info from him and instead lift yours is lazy and wrong. It may not be illegal per se but if I was the SE of the other guy I'd want to know about it.
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