Football Blogger Might Get Away With Publishing 'Secret' Player Grades

Rob Rang

Photo: Screenshot via Philadelphia Eagles

A sports blogger may get away with publishing a number of allegedly secret ‘player grades’ developed by a scouting firm prior to the 2010 NFL Draft.National Scouting Inc, which sells its player reports for $75,000 to NFL teams, sued Rob Rang and media company Sports Xchange Inc in 2011 for copyright infringement and misappropriation of trade secrets, Melissa Sachs writes for Westlaw Journals.

In 2010, part-time sports blogger Rob Rang included 18 player grades formulated by National Scouting Inc in his posts profiling college standouts prior to the upcoming draft, according to Sachs, who cited court documents.

Judge Ronald B. Leighton recently returned rulings on motions for summary judgment made by both sides on the two separate claims — and it’s mostly good news for the defendant.

The judge ruled that although the player grades were copyrightable material due to the originality required in order to develop them, Rang is not liable for copyright infringement.

Rather, Rang’s articles constituted fair use of the material due to the transformative nature of the commentary he added, as Judge Leighton writes:

Rang did not publish a wholesale list of the Player Grades; instead, he recited a grade and provided original commentary on the players and their draft prospects in his view. Rang took material in the public domain, the player grades, and his original thoughts to create his original commentary on the players.

On the claim of misappropriating trade secrets, however, Rang is not off the hook yet.

Melissa Sachs of Reuters reported that Rang’s lawyers argued player grades don’t count as a protectable trade secret because they are subjective opinions.

Judge Leighton disagreed, finding that “The fact that National awarded a grade to a player is ‘information’ under the plain language of the statute.”

The issue of whether trade secrets were misappropriated or not will go to trial.

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