Ruling appears to signal end to copyright on football fixture lists

The media is likely to be a big winner after a European Court ruling on the copyright of sports fixtures this week.

The court ruled last week that fixture lists are not covered by copyright law, as claimed by the organisation Football Dataco, who provide fixtures for the major football leagues in England and Scotland.

The organisation claimed its fixture lists – distributed to the media by PA – were protected by copyright under the EU’s Database directive. It sued some UK media and betting organisations, including Yahoo, for unpaid fees.

But the European Court said the directive only covered database structures – not the content or the data itself.

It also stressed that copyright only applied to original work – not the amount of labour and skill used to create it.

The case will now go back to the Court of Appeal for a final decision. But it is unlikely to come to a different view to the European Court.

The judgment means that creators of fixture lists will have to work harder in future to achieve originality – probably by using graphics, colour and other creative features.

Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the Remote Gamblers Association, said: ‘We welcome the ruling.

‘I 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.”

The case had been referred to the CJEU by the High Court of England and Wales.

Cleland Thom is a trainer and consultant in media law


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