European Judges Reject Copyright Claim Over Football Fixtures

By iSportconnect | March 2, 2012

A claim for copyright over football fixture lists in England Scotland has been rejected by European judges.

European judges cited the need for “significant” work on compiling Football league fixtures, but did not entail the creativity required for copyright protection.

This comes after accusations were made at Yahoo, bookmaker Stan James and sports information firm Enetpulse of breaching EU copyright laws.

However, the Premier League said it was for national courts to rule whether or not copyright protection was afforded.

The league said it was confident that this hearing would go its way, and provide “database protection for the English and Scottish football leagues’ fixtures”. The final hearing will be in the UK in the near future.

Dataco, the firm responsible for protecting the rights acquired in English and Scottish football league fixtures, and said the trio of firms had breached copyright by failing to pay for the use of the match schedules.

Football Dataco grants licences to third parties allowing them – for a fee – to reproduce the Premier League, the Football League, Scottish Premier League and Scottish Football League fixtures.

Problems are raised when News and media services, as well as gambling firms, fantasy football operators and other commercial outlets, use the information to produce fixture information for fans and allow gamblers to bet on events.

The case had originated in the English courts, before being sent to the European Court of Justice for clarification of certain points of database law.

“A football fixture list cannot be protected by copyright when its compilation is dictated by rules or constraints which leave no room for creative freedom,” said the European judges.

The case was referred to the European court by the High Court in London, which must now “assess, in the light of the considerations set out by the [Luxembourg] court, whether the football fixture lists concerned are databases which satisfy the conditions of eligibility for copyright protection”.

Edited By Marc Sibbons