Law of Cards: Beckett Sues Two More for Scraping Data

Law of Cards: Beckett Sues Two More for Scraping Data

The recent trend in trading card cases focuses more on protecting trading card data than on trading cards themselves. Beckett has filed two more lawsuits over alleged data scraping.

Collectors Universe (CU) started this trend with lawsuits against MWP Software/Matthew Perry and SaintSoft LLC/John Kountz. In both of these suits, CU alleged the defendants copied CU data available only to paying CU subscribers, and then unlawfully (and in violation of CU's terms of service) used that data on the defendants' websites or in their own apps.

Pokémon then followed by suing the Pokellector (a website which attempts to provide a comprehensive list of all Pokémon cards, along with images of those cards) for allegedly reproducing copyrighted images of its cards without permission, trademark infringement and unlawfully rebranding the images of Pokémon cards with a Pokellector trademark.

Beckett continued the trend by bringing a trade secret lawsuit against Check Out My Cards (COMC) which, among other things, made a big deal out of COMC's "scraping" of checklists and pricing data (although COMC alleges such scraping may have been authorized).

On April 24, Beckett filed two more lawsuits focusing on pricing and checklist data. This time against Custom Plush Productions Inc's The Card Collector and Derek Miller of Miller Cards.

These two new complaints cannibalize a lot of the COMC complaint and are nearly mirror images of each other as well.

It also looks like Beckett might have let an intern from the marketing department edit these complaints. Paragraph six of both state, "Beckett is the preeminent company and most trusted source operating within the collectibles industry, and it has been since it formed in 1984."

Sounds more like a PR piece than a lawsuit, right?

For The Card Collector case, Beckett alleges The Card Collector accessed Beckett's pricing guides through the Beckett website and unlawfully "scraped" Beckett's copyrightable checklist and pricing data. Allegedly, The Card Collector now offers Beckett's card checklists, grading and pricing data on its own website and through a CD-ROM it sells to others. For that Beckett brings claims for copyright infringement, common law misappropriation, "accounting" (bring out the accountants!), unjust enrichment, a violation of Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, trespass and a Harmful Access by Computer Under Texas Penal Code.

A little bit of everything, right?

For the second new suit, Beckett alleges Miller Cards operates several websites (such as millercards.net and freebaseballcardspriceguide.com) that provide checklists and pricing guides for card collectors. Beckett contends that Miller accessed Beckett's price guides through his Beckett membership, violated the membership agreement by "scraping" this data and then unlawfully reproduced the data on his websites. It brings the identical claims against Miller Cards that it brought against the Card Collector.

Giving all of this scraping going on, I guess, the next planking or Tebowing-type meme should be the "scraping" Beckett meme. I'm looking forward to seeing your pictures on what that should look like.

Now, we've only seen Beckett's side of the story, but it looks bad for both defendants. Sure, there are issues about how much copyright protection should be afforded checklists, but these cases are not just about publicly available checklist data. The checklist and pricing information from these cases was allegedly scraped from behind a pay wall at and then distributed to others in violation of Beckett's terms of service.

Allegedly stealing something from behind a pay wall to give or sell to others just doesn’t look good.

Given this, in all likelihood, these cases will disappear (settle) quickly before we get into any real issues.

These two cases (and the COMC case) have another implication for the industry. Beckett has a template complaint that it looks like it's going to recycle again and again against scrapers. And it's policing the Internet looking for infringers. I predict then we'll see this complaint filed again this year, perhaps multiple times.

If you'd like to review a copy of these complaints, click here for the Card Collector complaint and here for the Miller Cards complaint.

The information provided in Paul Lesko's "Law of Cards" column is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered in the sports industry. This information is not intended to create any legal relationship between Paul Lesko, the Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC or any attorney and the user. Neither the transmission nor receipt of these website materials will create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the readers.

The views expressed in the "Law of Cards" column are solely those of the author and are not affiliated with the Simmons Law Firm. You should not act or rely on any information in the "Law of Cards" column without seeking the advice of an attorney. The determination of whether you need legal services and your choice of a lawyer are very important matters that should not be based on websites or advertisements.

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Paul Lesko is a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy and the chair of its Intellectual Property Department (http://www.simmonsfirm.com). Don’t hold the fact that Paul is a lawyer against him, he’s also a rabid baseball and college basketball fan, and an avid baseball card collector. Paul can be found on Twitter @Paul_Lesko and Google+.

User Comments

  1. If one were to start their own checklist from scratch by obtaining prices solely through completed eBay auctions/listings (which is free public information, right?) could Beckett sue them? Since some or most of the card values would look similar to Beckett’s? And where does Beckett get their card values from? Don’t they “scrape” the same information from completed eBay auctions/listings??? What gives them the entitlement versus others?

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