Originally created 02/25/03

Morris wants judge to review case



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The court case might be over, but the war of words over Internet access to golf scores continues between the PGA Tour and Morris Communications Co., the parent company of The Augusta Chronicle.

The tour fired the latest shot, labeling "baseless" and "preposterous" Morris' request that a Jacksonville judge rescind his order dismissing the media company's lawsuit against the tour.

"With overly broad assertions that have come to typify Morris' submissions in this case, Morris itself has distorted the facts and tried to mislead this Court," PGA Tour lawyers wrote in a document filed in federal court late Friday.

Morris attorney Jerome Hoffman said Monday, "It's a stretch" for the tour to think it can control "publicly available information placed in an electronic format."

In December, U.S. District Judge Harvey Schlesinger threw out Morris' lawsuit, which had sought the right to sell live golf scores from tour events to Internet customers. Judge Schlesinger held that the tour has a property right in its scoring system until scores are in the public domain.

In addition to appealing Judge Schlesinger's ruling, Morris filed a motion this month asking the judge to rescind his order and reopen the case.

Morris argued that three weeks after the order, the tour placed restrictions on its Internet site prohibiting commercial use of scores obtained from the site.

Though the tour gave Morris written permission to manually re-key scores from the Internet site, Morris accused the tour of misleading Judge Schlesinger when it argued in court that the scores are in the public domain once they appear on pgatour.com.

On Friday, the tour shot back with a strongly worded memorandum of law that accused Morris of distorting the facts "to usurp the economic benefits of PGA Tour's scoring system for free."

"Morris's argument is no different than if it argued that Apple Computer Corp. should be required to give Morris Apple computers for free so that Morris could compete with Apple in the sale of those computers," tour attorneys asserted.

The tour maintained the new restrictions wouldn't have changed the case's outcome even if they had been in effect when Judge Schlesinger made his decision, which the tour argued confirmed its legal right to place contractual limitations on golf scores. And tour lawyers denied Morris's allegations that they misled the court to win a favorable decision.

"PGA Tour's conduct and its representations to this court have always been entirely consistent and forthright," they wrote. "It is Morris" not PGA Tour "that has obfuscated and distorted the facts as to its own conduct ... in its continuing efforts to obtain for free the economic benefits of PGA Tour's substantial investment in its golf scoring system."

But Mr. Hoffman said the tour's efforts to control publicly available information would be like the telephone company trying to copyright the phone book.

"It would be as if the telephone company said, 'If we're going to give you a phone book, we're going to place restrictions that you can't manually re-key the information in the white pages,"' Mr. Hoffman said.

Tour spokesman Bob Combs would not comment, saying he preferred to let the memorandum speak for itself.