Ridiculous Hot News And Copyright Battles As World Chess Seeks To Block Others From Broadcasting Moves
from the that's-ridiculous dept
And yet... we've just come across two separate cases, involving one particular organizer of chess tournaments, trying to abuse the law to block reporting on chess moves -- in both Russia and the US. Both cases are ridiculous, and thankfully, both have failed so far. The Moscow case actually kicked off back in the spring, when the organization Agon, which runs World Chess Championships and the website WorldChess.com, sued some websites, including Chess24, for posting the chess moves of live events. Thankfully, the Commercial Court of the City of Moscow rejected the lawsuit a few weeks ago, though Agon has said it will appeal. There are a number of reasons why Agon lost the case, but the key one:
Art. 14.7 of the Competition Act does not apply in particular since the Plaintiff did not establish a regime of commercial secrecy for the information about the chess moves. On the contrary, this information was in the public domain (as the Plaintiff himself admits on page 6 of the statement of claim). Consequently, information about the chess moves is not a trade secret and is not protected by law. Accordingly, the Defendant did not receive, use or disclose information that was a trade or other secret protected by law i.e. he did not violate Art. 14.7 of the Competition Act.Then, just days after that ruling in Moscow, a very similar case was filed in the US by World Chess -- which is owned by Agon. And, it also targeted Chess24, one of the same companies it had sued in Moscow. In the US, it's clear that there's no copyright claim to be made in chess moves -- too many cases clearly preclude trying to claim a copyright in factual data, especially factual data about sports/competitions. Instead, World Chess focused on the pretty much dead and discredited "hot news" claims against a few other chess sites. The entire complaint can basically be summarized as "but... wah... it's not fair!"
Defendants have made a pattern and practice of copying and redistributing in real time the chess moves from tournaments covered byWorld Chess shortly after the moves appear on World Chess’s website, and unless restrained by this Court will do the same with respect the November 2016 Championship.World Chess not only asked for an injunction against Chess24 -- but also demanded that the court order the domains of the defendants be transferred over to World Chess. The defendants hit back with a detailed explanation of how ridiculous World Chess's lawsuit was:
By its Application for a Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction, Plaintiffs World Chess US, Inc. and World Chess Events Ltd. (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) seek to prevent legitimate chess-oriented websites from reporting on, discussing, and analyzing one of the major chess matches of the year – even though the information Chess24 seeks to report on will already be readily available to the public. Plaintiffs attempt to do so by claiming that because they are the organizers and promoters of the chess match they have an intangible, enforceable property right in the facts surrounding that match, and therefore have the exclusive right to publish and report on what the players are doing. The claims made by Plaintiffs run contrary to the well-established law of this Circuit and public policy.Chess24 points out that World Chess is clearly just trying to do an endrun around well-established copyright law, and that's a big no-no.
Plaintiffs know that the moves made by professional chess players are precisely the type of factual material that is not protectable by copyright law. But it also cannot be protected under theories of common law misappropriation. The law is absolutely clear in this Circuit that state law claims for misappropriation of unprotectable facts – including live sports plays – are preempted by Section 301 of the Copyright Act. In an effort to avoid preemption, Plaintiffs have relied on an extremely narrow exception for so-called “hot news misappropriation.” That exception plainly does not apply here. In fact, Plaintiffs almost completely ignore the dispositive case in this area -- NBA v. Motorola, 105 F.3d 841, 846 (2d Cir. 1996). In Motorola, the Second Circuit expressly rejected the exact same claim that Plaintiffs attempt to argue here, involving almost the exact same factual circumstances. Specifically, that case held that the NBA could not prevent Motorola from attending and watching basketball games and selling play-by-play accounts of the game to its mobile customers. In contrast to this dispositive case law, Plaintiffs are unable to cite even a single case upholding an injunction like the one sought by Plaintiffs in even remotely similar circumstances.Oh, and also, Chess24 points out to the court that (1) Agon/World Chess just lost a nearly identical case in Moscow and (2) it waited until just days before the tournament in question started to try to force a quick injunction:
Even more telling is the fact that although Plaintiffs have been in litigation with Chess24 in Moscow since March (Plaintiffs recently lost that case), they waited until just four days before the start of the WCC to bring this motion. Plaintiffs’ decision to file their lengthy motion at the eleventh hour is not just sharp tactics; it confirms that there is no actual irreparable injury in need of remediation.There was a hearing in court, and the judge, Victor Marrero, rejected World Chess/Agon's request for an injunction. As of writing this, the court has only posted the short order without the full explanation, which is expected to be published later. But, given the facts here, it seems fairly obvious why the court rejected the case -- and it's all of the many reasons that Chess24 laid out in its brief.
Hopefully, these companies can finally get it through their heads that you can't copyright chess.