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”
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.”