UK Court Says Sports Schedules Can Be Covered By Copyright

from the copyrighting-facts dept

While in the US you can’t copyright facts, elsewhere, it’s not always so direct. Over in Europe, they’ve long had a database right on the collections of factual information — despite the evidence that these do a lot more harm than good. This has been known for many years, but still Europe lets people copyright collections of data. While the US has rejected the idea that “sweat of the brow” gives you a copyright (instead it needs to be original work), Europe is a bit more open to this. Of course, that leads to some absolutely ridiculous results.

Copycense points us to the news that a UK court has now said that football schedules are covered by copyright. Yes, you read that right. The dates and times of a football match are covered by copyright, and if a news outlet wants to list the schedule… they have to pay up.

Amusingly, the court tries to pretend that this is more than just “sweat of the brow”:

“The process of preparing fixture lists involves very significant labor and skill in satisfying the multitude of often competing requirements of those involved,” Judge Christopher Floyd said. “(It is) not mere sweat of the brow, by which I mean the application of rigid criteria to the processing of data. The quality of the solution depends in part on the skill of those involved.”

But that seems ridiculous no matter how you look at it. The end result is purely factual information, and preventing people from reporting on basic factual information seems like a huge restriction on basic speech and the press. Now, the UK may not recognize freedom of expression as being as big a deal as it is in the US, but it’s hard to justify telling people they can’t report when a football match is happening because they haven’t paid up.

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Comments on “UK Court Says Sports Schedules Can Be Covered By Copyright”

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23 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

but they have to adapt to the twentieth century and advance their laws beyond the draconian laws that didn’t have restrictive copyright measures to promote the progress. Who would create a schedule for football games if it weren’t for copyright? Nobody, and as a result nobody would know when the game starts. Copyright gives them incentive to do this and hence promotes the progress.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Who needs a schedule disseminated more?

Who needs a schedule disseminated more? The papers or the league? If you want to read the schedule in the paper buy an advertisement.

There is a soccer game at some point this week to be played by two opposing teams in an arena somewhere in the area. We are not allowed to communicate any more information. If you want to know more contact the league president at his home number which is…..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“What if you created a service called “TIMES+10″ and just added ten minutes to the times you report games starting at?”

You can call it a derivative work and claim it’s protected.

“you could use the ‘sweat of your brow’ argument to keep people from reporting THAT.”

Yeah, you had to go through the trouble of adding ten minutes, that’s a lot of work. You deserve to be compensated for all that mental effort.

ChurchHatesTucker (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“You can call it a derivative work and claim it’s protected.”

Yeah, ‘derivative work’ is the devil-in-the-details of copyright. Everything is derivative, to one degree or other.

“Yeah, you had to go through the trouble of adding ten minutes, that’s a lot of work. You deserve to be compensated for all that mental effort.”

Hey, I’d have done much more than the people who just relayed the actual times.

That said, I like the Time-10 idea. It’s sort of how movie times work.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“What if you created a service called “TIMES+10″ and just added ten minutes to the times you report games starting at?”

That could be considered fraud? Perhaps if you said, “the game begins approximately Time + 10 min with a margin of error of 10 min” it won’t be fraud because it’s approximately true. It won’t be infringement because it’s a derivative work?

Anonymous Coward says:

So, the argument is that if something takes “skill”, it’s more than mere “sweat of the brow”, and thus should be covered by copyright?

Leaving aside the incredibly nebulous notion of “skilled” labor as apart from some other kind of labor, all it takes for something to be considered copyrighted by this court is that it was skillfully prepared?

That’s quite far from the criteria in any definition of copyrighted work that I’ve ever heard.

Joe Blow says:

typical convo at work

Hey Joe, what ya doin after work ?

Oh, I’m going to the game. Wanna come ?

Yeah, sure. when is it ?

Ahhh, I can’t tell you. That is copyrighted information and I would be breaking the law if I told you.

Hey, if you dont want me to go, then just say so. But do not make up such stupid crap. What an ass !

lawgeeknz says:

Not quite that simple

It is trite to say it but every case depends on its facts so its interesting to compare this case to the recent Australian one where Australia’s incumbent telco Telstra lost out in its claim to copyright on its yellow and white pages directories. Decision here http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/2010/44.html (one of about 4 major Australian IP cases where appeals are to be heard this August – iiNet is another).

But, to come back to the UK case, if you read the case itself, you find that in fact the people who prepared the fixture list were instrumental in working with the teams themselves to set the dates for the fixtures. So, on the Geist sweat of the brow test, this is not just a case of copyrighting existing facts. Decision here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2010/841.html

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not quite that simple

“But, to come back to the UK case, if you read the case itself, you find that in fact the people who prepared the fixture list were instrumental in working with the teams themselves to set the dates for the fixtures.”

I don’t see how this changes anything.

“So, on the Geist sweat of the brow test, this is not just a case of copyrighting existing facts.”

Why not?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not quite that simple

“But, to come back to the UK case, if you read the case itself, you find that in fact the people who prepared the fixture list were instrumental in working with the teams themselves to set the dates for the fixtures. “

yeah, and in a movie theater, those who prepared the movie hours and posted them online were instrumental in working with the movie theater administrators to set and/or collect the movie hours. So they deserve a copyright on those as well, for all their hard work.

mermaldad (profile) says:

Re: Spoiler

Or have a contest where readers can log onto a website and create a “fantasy” schedule for two years from now. All the readers’ schedules will be “published” on the website with attribution in exchange for transfer of the copyright to the paper. When the league tries to publish their schedule, there’s a good chance it will be in violation of one of the schedules which the paper already published.

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