Bulgarian Chess Tournament Organizers Sue Website For Reporting Chess Moves, Claim Copyright Infringement

from the is-that-the-spanish-opening-or-the-king's-gambit? dept

Some days you just shake your head in disbelief. A year ago, we wrote about a Bulgarian chess federation was demanding that websites stop broadcasting what moves were happening in its chess tournament, claiming it was a copyright violation. As we noted at the time, you’re not supposed to be able to copyright facts, such as chess moves, otherwise it would make playing chess itself pretty damn difficult. It appears that this year, the organizers of this Bulgarian chess festival are taking it up a notch. Jeff T alerts us to the stunning news that they have actually sued a German website for reporting what moves were happening.

The article goes a bit more into the legal strategy, and highlights the insanity of certain copyright laws. As we’ve discussed in the past, Europe has “database rights” — a concept the US has (mostly) rejected — which do grant the ability to apply copyrights on collections of facts, under the slightly warped theory that this kind of incentive is needed to aggregate those facts into a database. Of course, research has been done on this for years, and they prove, without a doubt, that database rights appear to hold back database businesses! Comparing identical industries in the US (without database rights) and Europe (with database rights) shows that the US industries are significantly larger. Thus, if the whole point of the database right is to encourage creation of more databases, it has empirically failed.

And… on top of that, it leads to absolutely nonsensical lawsuits like the one above. The database right is most certainly not intended to protect a list of chess moves. It’s intended (though, it fails on this) to provide incentives to create databases. The idea that people would not play chess without a database right is obviously ridiculous. But, the Bulgarian chess folks are insisting the law is on their side. If the case were filed in the US it would be tossed pretty quickly. Hopefully the same is true in Germany as well. There is simply no legitimate reason to block reporting on the factual nature of chess moves.

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Comments on “Bulgarian Chess Tournament Organizers Sue Website For Reporting Chess Moves, Claim Copyright Infringement”

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Thomas (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“…authors of the chess move…”???? The authors of any chess move are everyone who has ever played chess. Chess has evolved over many hundreds of years, building on a fairly simple set of rules, which yields a virtually unlimited set of strategies. The question is not whether a chess “move” can be copyrighted, but whether the moves in this tournament, as a matter of record, can be copyrighted. It is just as ridiculous as any other sports tournament trying to lock up the facts of scores, plays, personnel, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Dose this mean...

No. It means that if you put time and effort into assembling that database, you can sue if someone else comes along and without authorisation hoovers up a substantial portion of *your* database. They’re quite at liberty to go and assemble their own, however similar it might be.

Just reusing data which does not make up a substantial portion of the data has been held not to be an infringement (the William Hill case for example)

Richard (profile) says:

The issue has been discussed

The issue of copyright in Go (and by implication Chess) moves has been discussed ad-nauseam on various Go sites. GoProblems.com used to have a big discussion thread on this but the current forum doesn’t seem to have it any more.

The it seems that:

1. Games like Go and Chess typically don’t appear in the
list of things that can be copyrighted.

2.Both games involve many standard sequences of moves. The games would be completely destroyed if copyright law was applied to the playing of moves.

3. Some sites (Like Gobase.org – a Dutch site) claim copyright on their game collections. However I do not see how this works – the European database right might be applicable to large collections like Gobase (30,000+ games) but I don’t see how that could apply to individual games – esp if the first 20-30 moves repeat a well known pattern.

4. I’ve never seen a Go player claim copyright on a game.

5. The big Japanese newspapers sponsor major Go tournaments – but I’ve never seen them claim copyright either – in fact the moves are typically freely relayed on IGS Pandanet and also made available on Gobase.

hp akkerman says:


Actually chess is a great game to watch ‘live’ over the internet. Nowadays computers can outplay even the best Grandmasters, so any dummy like myself in the company of a great chess program like Rybka, has suddenly become an expert.
Watching a chess game is great fun. There are numerous GM’s and patzers watching simultaneously and they not only comment on the moves, but on everything ranging from Bobby Fischer to global politics. When I watch a match, like this one in Bulgaria that was about the World Chamionship I look at one site that relays the moves, I listen to GM comments on Chess FM, I follow the live game blog of Susan Polgar, I watch the webcam that shows both players and I rely on my computer to see the bigger plan behind things. And I participate in the discussion.

I can imagine that the people who organize such an event, just like in any sport actually, want to get paid for relaying the match. Wether this is fair or not, is a totally different discussion. Most chess sites where you cabn follow these games, like ICC and Chessbomb, are ‘free’. But if you want to make use of all the possibilities or if you don’t want to have advertising all over, you have to pay. I think ICC charges something like 80 US$ for a year.

So at first look this discussion may seem strange to you non chess adepts, but the moves are the essence of the game.
I remember that Wimbledon threw out some ‘reporters’ who tweeted about the standings in the game. It’s a bit like that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Is Chess different from football?

The organisers of football and tennis tournaments make a lot of money from the broadcasting rights, and I don’t really see why the organizer of a chess tournament shouldn’t do the same, assuming there is an audience willing to pay. However, copyright seems an odd way of achieving it; I would have thought terms and conditions associated with the sale of a ticket to the venue was a better mechanism.

Of course if the organizers publish the results on a web site and someone rips off that content, that definitely is a copyright breach – the website, unlike the chess game, is definitely a literary work.

Anonymous Coward says:

I always knew there was something shady about chess players.....

This obviously confirms my suspicions…all chess players are ‘dirty stinking rotten pirates’ who steal their moves because they are to ‘unoriginal’ to come up with their own.

I mean obviously the moves they are using are someone else’s IP (the people who played chess 50-100 years before them), and so by default today’s chess players are nothing more than thieves.

They are stealing all their moves from past players without any attribution or proper compensation.

I hereby propose that we create CRAP (Chess Regulatory Audit Program), it will impose mandatory mechanical licensing fees on anyone playing chess (.10 per move or $10.00 per day) and it will then re-distribute the licensing revenue to the appropriate individuals. Of course any funds owed to individuals who don’t know CRAP (haven’t registered with CRAP or are those who are dead), will be retained by CRAP and used to get more CRAP laws passed which can be used to impose more CRAP licensing.

I can see the $$$ rolling in now….. Since all moves can be attributed to dead people, CRAP gets to keep all the money and the players get …. CRAP.

What the hell is a sarcmark? Is this not obvious enough….

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