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CJEU: The End of Copyright Claims for Sports Fixture Lists

Date

01 Mar 2012

Sections

Health & Consumers

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) today delivered its ruling (case C-604/10) in a case referred from the Court of Appeal (England & Wales).

The fixture lists, for each season of the leagues, set the dates and venues for every match to be played. Football Dataco et al, claimed that there was in the fixture lists a sui generis right and a copyright under the Database Directive and a copyright under UK law. It consequently initiated legal action against certain media and sports betting companies in the UK, including Yahoo! and Stan James, who had refused to pay fees for those alleged rights.

Today’s decision by the CJEU is consistent with their previous ruling in (Fixtures Marketing C-46/02, C-338/02 and C-444/02; British Horseracing Board v. William Hill C-203/02) which held that football fixture lists and ‘runners and riders’ horseracing lists do not give rise to a sui generis database right.

The ruling furthermore reaffirms that fixture lists do not give rise as such to a copyright. As such, the key points are:

- The copyright protection provided for by the Database Directive concerns the ‘structure’ of the database, and not its ‘contents’. That protection does not extend to the data itself”.

- “The notion of ‘intellectual creation’, which is a necessary condition in order to be eligible for copyright protection, refers to the sole criterion of originality”.

- “significant labour and skill on the part of its author does not justify, as such, the protection of it by copyright if that labour and that skill do not express any originality”

The CJEU also makes it clear that the Database Directive aims at completely harmonising copyright protection for databases across the EU and therefore precludes national rights other than those provided for by the Directive.

Clive Hawkswood, Chief Executive of the RGA, said: “We welcome the ruling of the CJEU in relation to the claims of Football Dataco and hope that this will, finally put an end to attempts by sporting organisations to extract significant funds from media and betting organisations using the threat of intellectual property infringement. It is disappointing that it has taken so long to reach this position of clarity; nevertheless we are grateful to the CJEU for providing such an unequivocal judgement. As we have said before, this will hopefully encourage professional sports to build on the current commercial relationships with the betting industry in the best interests of all concerned.”

Sigrid Ligné, Secretary General of the EGBA added: “We welcome today’s ruling, which should put an end to copyright claims for sport fixture lists. The focus now should be on strengthening the commercial ties between the online betting industry and professional sports. The fact, though, is that sport is still missing out on commercial opportunities with the betting industry in countries like Germany, Portugal and Poland because of sponsorship and advertising restrictions. We encourage the European Commission to take actions against these countries in order to remove these regulatory barriers.”

-ENDS-

For further information or comment please contact Sigrid Ligné: +32 2 554 08 90, EGBA Secretary General or Brian Wright, RGA Director of Business, +44 (0)20 7831 2195 

Notes for Editors

                                                                                                     

1.  The RGA is the largest online gambling trade association in the world, representing the world’s largest licensed and stock market-listed remote gambling operators and software provider’s .The organisation provides the remote gambling industry with a single voice on all issues of importance to regulators, legislators, and key decision-makers.

2.  Its members include: 888; Ash Gaming; bet365; Betfair; Boylesport; bwin.party; Gala Coral; Gamesys; IGT; Ladbrokes; Microgaming; Paddy Power; PKR; Playtech; Rank Group; SBOBET; Skybet; Sportingbet; Sportech; Stan James; Stanleybet; Talarius; Unibet; VCBet; Virgin; William Hill; and WMS.

3. The EGBA is an association of leading European gaming and betting operators Bet-at-home.com, BetClic, bwinparty, Digibet, Expekt, Interwetten, and Unibet. EGBA is a Brussels-based non-profit association. It promotes the right of private gaming and betting operators that are regulated and licensed in one Member State to a fair market access throughout the European Union. Online gaming and betting is a fast growing market, but will remain for the next decades a limited part of the overall European gaming market in which the traditional land based offer is expected to grow from € 80.4 Billion GGR in 2010 to € 92 Billion GGR in 2015, thus keeping the lion’s share with 86% of the market. Source: H2 Gambling Capital, September 2011. 

4.  A full version of the CJEU ruling can be found at: 

http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=119904&pageIndex=0&doclang=EN&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=1759892

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