This week saw the European Parliament adopt its position on the proposed EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market – see our MediaWrites update. The progress of the overall Directive has attracted significant attention, and has been the source of prolonged debate about the competing rights of copyright holders and the major internet tech platforms. However, one proposal introduced at a late stage has gone relatively unnoticed amongst that debate – a new exclusive right for sports organisers.

As the TV rights to major sports properties have become increasingly valuable, sports rights holders have found themselves faced with an escalating battle against online piracy services. These efforts have been hampered by the fact that sporting events do not themselves benefit from copyright protection. Organisers have therefore needed to rely on other IP rights in order to protect and monetise their events, such as copyright-protected material contained within a TV signal. However, the protections provided by existing IP laws are limited. For example, if an event organiser films a football match it can own the copyright in the footage it creates. But copyright law does not prevent spectators and fans from creating their own videos at events and posting them online.

The new proposal for Article 12a provides that only the organiser of a sports event has the right to reproduce and make available footage of its events. If the proposal is implemented in the final Directive, sports organisers hope it will prove to be a valuable tool in their fight against the pirates.

As the European Commission, Parliament and Council set about the task of agreeing the final form of the Directive, it will be interesting to see whether there will be wider support for Article 12a outside the Parliament, and whether it remains in the legislation.

Keep an eye on MediaWrites for more analysis as this develops.

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