Football fixtures cannot be copyrighted says court ruling
Football fixture lists cannot be protected by copyright. That was the verdict from the Court of Justice of the European Union yesterday.
The claim was filed by the UK football leagues and the British company Football Dataco, which is responsible for protecting the rights acquired in the English and Scottish football league fixtures, and the organisers of those leagues. In the claim, they accused Yahoo!, bookmaker Stan James and sports information provider Enetpulse of infringing their intellectual property rights by using match fixture data without payment or permission.
The EU's Data Directive gives copyright protection to databases if the selection or arrangement of their contents constitute the author's own intellectual creation, which refers to the criterion of originality.
However, the court ruled that “a football fixture list cannot be protected by copyright when its compilation is dictated by rules or constraints which leave no room for creative freedom.”
The preparation of the fixture list adheres to several ‘golden rules’, and even though it takes significant skill and labour to produce the list, the court found that this “does not justify, in itself, it being protected by copyright.”