ECJ talks sense on copyright

Football match fixture list copyright claim rejected

It seems to me an outrage that the football people think that they can copyright their own league time tables, this is all public knowledge.

There are old English cases on this, a football pools coupon was protected by copyright (that seems fair enough) and TV schedules used to be copyrighted (so newspapers were only allowed to publish today’s programmes and not for one week in advance) but some court or new law put a stop to that (good riddance).

But you have to draw a line somewhere.

It is public knowledge that Costa Rica beat Wales 1-0 at a soccer match yesterday, there’s no copyright in that. But if somebody goes to the trouble of collating hundreds and thousands of sports results from all different sources and compiles them himself into a handy book or computer CD, then a lot of work has gone into that and it is the work that is protected. So I can’t just type stuff straight from the pages of Wisden’s, they have done all the hard work down the centuries and I can’t just use it.

The underlying principle is to protect people’s skill and effort in creating stuff.

That is why “there is no copyright in ideas” because having an idea requires little skill or effort, it’s actually writing the novel, recording the music, painting the painting or setting up the cameras and lighting which is worth protecting

That’s why I found the case which said there was copyright in a photo of a bus going over a bridge so upsetting, it is clearly at odds with all the old principles.

Another example is my cow attack summaries. If I just cut and paste an article from a newspaper, I am strictly speaking infringing their copyright. But if I compile a list, then I have put my own work and effort into this (one or two hours a month), and if after a few years I publish a book listing and categorising all these attacks, by nature of attack, severity of injuries, sub-classifying into cases where a dog or a calf was involved, with charts and tables, then that book is my almost entirely my own work and the rest is public knowledge (like Wisden’s cricket scores).

I’d still have to get permission to quote excerpts, but if I just paraphrase, I’m in the clear. If somebody else then copies a chapter from my book, I can sue him for infringement of my own hard work and effort.

8 comments for “ECJ talks sense on copyright

  1. March 6, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    It’s way beyond common sense – it’s all about unworkability now.

  2. Patrick Harris
    March 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    Surely there is enough “law”, of the right stuff, to have sorted this out under English law. why the need for it to go to the ECJ?

  3. Jim
    March 6, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    @ Patrick Harris: presumably because existing UK law (the 1959 ruling that football fixtures were copyrightable) is at odds with European law, and European law now takes precedence. Thats why the English courts asked for a clarification from the ECJ.

    • March 6, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      But should it do so? That’s the issue.

      • Jim
        March 7, 2012 at 9:04 am

        Well indeed, thats the whole ‘EU or not’ argument.

        In this case I have to say I agree with the ECJ ruling – how the football authorities can claim that their list of public events is copyrightable I do not know.

        I have a bit of an vested interest – a friend wants to run a football prediction game via a website (he does it offline now and its very popular) but he can’t because the fixtures are copyright and he can’t put them on the website. Hopefully now he will be able to.

      • March 7, 2012 at 8:37 pm

        I’m as anti-EU as the next man, but I work in tax and I’ve done a law degree, and when it comes to purely commercial disputes, the ECJ usually give the ‘right’ judgment*, they’ll stick up for the little guy who is being done for copyright infringement by some corporation; they’ll stick up for the taxpayer against the tax office; they’ll stick up for the foreigner who is treated unfavourably by a host country etc.

        * That’s my subjective opinion. If you are a protectionist statist racist corporatist, you’ll think otherwise. I even once helped a UKIP member out of a nasty French tax charge on the basis that it was discriminatory against non-French. The irony of us relying on EU rules to get him off the hook was not lost one me, but hey, we get so much bad stuff from the EU, you’ve got to make the best of the bad bits.

  4. Leg-iron
    March 7, 2012 at 5:15 am

    You don’t need permission to quote excerpts, as long as they are marked as quotes and attributed.

    If you couldn’t post excerpts of other’s work (with references), all scientific publication would grind to a halt.

    The photo was a strange one. If I take a photo, the copyright is mine even if someone else takes the exact same photo in the same place and even if I have no ownership at all of the thing I’m photographing. That is important to me because I use my own photos as book covers. Often more than one, combined.

    Claiming that an image is copyright on the basis that it was the first photo taken of a place is going to lead to all sorts of serious problems.

    • March 7, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      Yes, a short quote with reference to original is OK if it’s part of a longer article. But if your entire article is nothing more than a short quote, you might be in trouble.

      But I think we are agreed that the photo’ one was completely bizarre; think about how many zillion photo’s there are of a red London double-decker crossing Westminster bloody Bridge, it’s featured in every second cinema film.

      I amuse myself by shouting “Look! London!” every time they show a cut away shot of a red London double decker or pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Even in Harry Potter films.

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