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The Chicago Cubs are suing the owners of rooftop businesses that overlook Wrigley Field and sell tickets to watch games, saying the establishments are stealing from the team. The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court against 13 defendants. The Cubs argue that the rooftop operators violate copyright laws and directly compete with the club for ticket sales. Fans watching Cubs games in seats on roofs across the street from the ivy-covered park are a familiar sight to television viewers around the country. Once those fans were local residents in lawn chairs, a beer in one hand and a bratwurst in the other, but today the rooftops are controlled by business people who charge customers to watch games live or on television. Cubs president and CEO Andy MacPhail said it’s unfair for the operators to make millions of dollars a year without giving something back to the team. “They do nothing to contribute to our efforts to put a winning team on the field,” MacPhail said. “The free ride is over.” Ken Jakubowski, a consultant for the rooftop businesses, said they are disappointed with the lawsuit. “It sets us back significantly in our efforts to solve this privately,” Jakubowski told WGN-TV, which like the Cubs is owned by Tribune Co. The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages, some of the defendant’s profits and a ban on the businesses selling or marketing Cubs products without permission. The Cubs need city approval for any expansion of the stadium, which seats 39,059, and many neighbors had objected, saying it would add to problems they already suffer from heavy traffic and rowdy, disruptive fans. The team had been negotiating with the rooftop owners on a deal in which the owners would give the expansion their blessing and pay the Cubs in return for a new bleacher design that would not block their customers’ view. But the bargaining came to an end after team officials concluded that the rooftop owners’ most recent offer was worse than the one before. Jakubowski said at the time that agreeing to licensing would mean admitting they had been stealing the Cubs’ product. And he said the Cubs’ goal would be to have as much control over the operators as possible. The owners offered to pay the Cubs a $14 fee per ticket. But they insisted on calling it a fee for “marketing” the rooftops on Cubs broadcasts and not a license to watch games. Tickets in the stadium for most games range from $12 to $36. Copyright 2002 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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