Last week, William Hill filed suit in US District Court in New Jersey accusing FanDuel of copyright infringement.
In a statement to the Associated Press, William Hill CEO Joe Asher commented on the suit:
“We are not litigious people but this is ridiculous. If the court finds in our favor, a portion of the proceeds will fund scholarships for creative writing programs at New Jersey universities.”
FanDuel has yet to speak about the pending litigation.
What’s behind the plagiarism lawsuit
William Hill debuted its “How to Bet” guide at the time they became the first sportsbook to accept legal sports bets in June.
Court documents allege FanDuel produced a nearly identical guide a month later when it launched its sportsbook at the Meadowlands. The suit claims:
“A simple side-by-side comparison of the William Hill Copyrighted Work against the Infringing Pamphlet clearly demonstrates how egregious FanDuel has been in its unauthorized copying of the William Hill Copyrighted Work.”
Specifically, there are identical blocks of texts, diagrams and examples throughout the guide. The most telling sign of plagiarism might just be the use of William Hill’s name in FanDuel’s guide.
According to the filing, FanDuel’s plagiarism extends beyond the guide. There are other examples on the website, as well.
According to the Washington Post, the lawsuit seeks the profits made from the use of the guide and other unspecified damages.
The suit may have merit, but it seems a bit petty
To be clear, if what William Hill alleges to be true, FanDuel is in the wrong. Let’s put it into perspective, though.
To begin with, it is a “How to Bet” guide. There are only so many ways to bet. It is not far-fetched to think other sportsbooks borrowed manuals to use as a framework.
Of course, “framework,” is the critical word in that sentence. Where FanDuel went wrong is not changing it up to make it their own. There is no doubt that it is unacceptable.
But once again, it is a “How to Bet” guide. Every sportsbook has one, and each one says pretty much the same thing.
Maybe its time to pool some resources. This would mean to form a collection of general sports betting information designed for New Jersey sports betting enthusiasts and available to every sportsbook to use.
It ensures the newest customers of the nascent industry–those that don’t know how to bet–are getting the same information. They are the ones that need the consistency the most.
London-based company William Hill opened its doors in 1934 and has been operating in Nevada since 2012. No doubt, producing the guide was relatively easy for them.
Companies like FanDuel and DraftKings are entering the sports betting industry for the first time. It makes sense that they will look to the more seasoned sportsbooks as a model.
To be sure, FanDuel made a rookie mistake. Regardless, one can’t help but think William Hill is taking a bit of pleasure in FanDuel’s mistake.
Three strikes and you’re not out
Luckily for FanDuel, it’s not three strikes and you’re out in the sports betting industry.
The company was best known for its daily fantasy sports contests until it joined the sports betting industry. Its entry into the New Jersey sports betting market began a new chapter.
Since day one, the company has been experiencing some of the growing pains associated with the pivot to sports betting.
On the second day of operation, the sportsbook closed ahead of the last MLB game of the night. It left customers without a way to cash in their winning ticket and had some speculating the company did not have enough cash on hand.
Following that, a now-famous 18-second glitch gave one customer 750/1 odds in the last few seconds of the NFL game between the Denver Broncos and the Oakland Raiders in September. After much dispute, the result was a five-digit payout on a $110 bet. FanDuel ended up paying the bet.
And now the plagiarism lawsuit. Are the mistakes a result of a company rushing to market? Probably somewhat. They also seem to be a result of a company doing new business in a new industry.
Whatever the reason, FanDuel better start doing its due diligence before it runs out of good will with regulators, competitors and customers.