Copyright for football league fixture lists?

Here is a nice judgment of the Court for football fans. Have you ever wondered why English  Premier League match fixtures on the internet are made unavailable while other fixtures are? The reason is that the FA and Football Dataco think these fixture lists are protected by copyright. For some of us that does not seem to make any sense: especially on the continent copyright is a property right rewarded because of creativity, not managing an agenda (no matter how difficult and laborous that can be). Football Dataco and the FA thought otherwise, emphasizing the very significant labour and skill that went into creating match fixtures for football matches in England and Scotland.

The FA and Football Dataco  got into a legal battle with Yahoo and other companies over this. The Court of Appeal subsequently referred the case to the Court to ask whether article 3(1) of the Copyright Directive (Directive 96/9/EC) granted copyright to the creators of annual match fixtures. The Court answered that ‘no other criteria than that of the originality is to be applied to determine the eligibility of a database for copyright protection’:

41      Therefore, on the one hand, provided that the selection or arrangement of the data ­– namely, in a case such as the one in the main proceedings, data corresponding to the date, the time and the identity of teams relating to the different fixtures of the league concerned (see paragraph 26 of the present judgment) ­– is an original expression of the creativity of the author of the database, it is irrelevant for the purpose of assessing the eligibility of the database for the copyright protection provided for by Directive 96/9 whether or not that selection or arrangement includes ‘adding important significance’ to that data, as mentioned in section (b) of the referring court’s first question.

42      On the other hand, the fact that the setting up of the database required, irrespective of the creation of the data which it contains, significant labour and skill of its author, as mentioned in section (c) of that same question, cannot as such justify the protection of it by copyright under Directive 96/9, if that labour and that skill do not express any originality in the selection or arrangement of that data.

Consequently:

–        the intellectual effort and skill of creating that data are not relevant in order to assess the eligibility of that database for protection by that right;

–        it is irrelevant, for that purpose, whether or not the selection or arrangement of that data includes the addition of important significance to that data, and

–        the significant labour and skill required for setting up that database cannot as such justify such a protection if they do not express any originality in the selection or arrangement of the data which that database contains.

It is now up to the Court of Appeal to determine whether creating annual match fixtures is an original expression of the creativity of Football Dataco or not.

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