Journalists warn of Euro Parliament sport rights threat

Journalists and press freedom campaigners are calling on the European Parliament to scrap legislation that would curb news organisations’ rights to report from sporting events.

MEPs are today discussing a white paper which would give sporting ruling bodies powers control the intellectual property rights and copyright to their events – and could charge journalists for photos, match reports and ‘ball-by-ball’online coverage.

The International Federation of Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists, the European Publishers’ Association and the News Media Coalition all warn that the paper would create new rights that previously did not exist – and could greatly hamper the way reporters cover showpiece sporting tournaments.

Article 70 of the paper asks the European Commission and the European member states ‘to strengthen further Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) in the sport sector, and demand concrete action which protects the IPR of sport event organisers with regard to results and their sporting event as a whole.”

Francisco Pinto Balsemão, chairman of the European Publishers’ Council said: ‘It is obvious that governing bodies are lobbying MEPs for newly-invented ‘IP rights’ including the protection of the event as a whole, information and spin-offs arising from the event, none of which exists under existing IPR regimes. This is unjustified protectionism and injurious to press freedom.”

The NMC said: ‘We are concerned that amendments, which on the one hand recognise the importance of the news media’s freedom to report, have not embraced the role of the press but only the role of reporting via audiovisual programmes. Furthermore, the sports bodies seem to want to become judge and jury as to what is ‘fair’ in news reporting.”

Last summer more than 40 news organisations around the world, including Press Assocation and The Guardian, became stuck in a row over reporting rights for the Rugby World Cup in France. Journalists refused to cover matches as the International Rugby Board limited the number of images, video clips taken before and after games, and live web text coverage reporters could file each match.

A deal was struck when the IRB agreed to allow 160 still images and five minutes of video per match – with unlimited text reports – and ditched plans to retain copyright for all content. Both sides said the agreement was not satisfactory and would need improving in future.

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