UK fixes football copyright rules


The High Court in London ruled on April 23 that companies that use football fixture lists must pay for the right to reproduce them.

The judgment favours the English and Scottish professional football leagues and Football DataCo Ltd, the organisation that markets and licenses data for the UK professional football leagues.

Defendants Brittens Pools Ltd and Yahoo! UK Ltd, as well as betting companies Stan James (Abingdon) Ltd, Stan James Plc and Enetpulse ApS, lost on their argument that the creators of databases do hold enforceable IP rights.

Mr Justice Floyd said: “It seems to me that the only way in which the fixture lists could conceivably attract copyright is by virtue of the collection and arrangement of the data contained in them, that is to say as a database.”

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) found in BHB v. William Hill that the sui generis database right under the database directive could not apply to fixture lists as the investment by the football leagues was in the process of creating the fixture lists, not in the obtaining, verification and presentation of their contents.

Ruth Hoy, IP partner at DLA Piper in London, who represented the claimants in the UK case, says the other way of securing rights is copyright in the database itself.

“The database directive specifically recognises the possibility of databases being protected by copyright if, by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents, they constitute the author’s own intellectual creation. Protection could be sought because of the fact that there could be copyright in the database itself. We saw an argument that we could run with that wasn’t thought of in BHB and we won," she says.

Compiling a football fixture list consumes not only time, says Hoy. “It may be a common belief that producing fixture lists is as easy as putting a few names into a hat and pulling them out, but a large amount of work and effort goes into it on the part of whole teams of people.”

The football leagues and DataCo can continue to license the football fixture lists unabated, thanks to the certainty brought by the ruling, says Hoy. Olswang LLP, which represented the defendants, declined to comment.

Copyright, football, fixtures, DataCo, High Court, database