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PGA Tour in court over scoring rights

Golf fans who want instant scores should get them from the company that collected them, not a newspaper chain trying to profit from others' efforts, according to a legal brief filed by PGA Tour Inc.

PGA Tour, the Jacksonville-based tournament promoter that hosts Professional Golf Association events, wants to protect its investment in a system of gathering scores. To do that, it prohibits other media companies with reporters who are attending tournaments from taking those scores posted in the press tent and distributing them for money to other sites on the Internet. PGA Tour posts the scores on its own Web site and sells instant scores to other newspapers.

Morris Communications Corp., the Augusta-based parent of the Savannah Morning News, filed suit in a federal district court in Florida for free access to instant scores for Web sites it had contracts with. The district judge ruled in December in PGA Tour's favor.

Morris asked the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta to review the case, and filed a brief last month arguing that the Tour be made to supply scores to the media company on First Amendment ground. Morris lawyers say the Tour is trying to monopolize the news.

"This case is about monopolization," Morris argues through its lawyers.

But in a 43-page brief made available Wednesday, the Tour counters that Morris wants to get free use of scores so it can sell them in competition with the promoter. And business law -- not freedom of the press -- is the issue.

"PGA Tour has every legal right to condition Morris's access to the media center and to decline to provide Morris with the data feed from its proprietary scoring system for free so that Morris can sell it to others for a fee," the promoters' lawyers write.

Thirteen news organizations filed a brief supporting Morris's position.

The case still has to be assigned to a three-judge panel which will decide if oral arguments will be held as both sides requested

 

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