Sport Fanatix Caught Out By Copyright Law

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The latest judgement to be heard regarding copyright material may hinder app developers and creatives alike, looking for a unique angle to share content online.

In a recent case, the England and Wales Cricket Board Ltd claimed developers of the Vine-inspired “Fanatix” had infringed copyright, by allowing users of their app to share 8 second clips of game broadcasts on social media.

Copyright infringement in respect of broadcasts, is found where a “substantial part” of content has been duplicated without consent of the original copyright owner.  The current test for what constitutes “substantial” is both quantitative and qualitative, a point on which the Fanatix developers lost a main defence. Although the clips posted via Fanatix were only 8 seconds long – hardly quantitatively substantial when taken from a two hour match – the fact that they contained highlights and key moments meant they were deemed qualitatively substantial overall.

Although the boundaries set between social media and copyright infringement have often collided this ruling has now further clarified the rights copyright owners can claim in this realm. Fanatix were on a sticky wicket claiming distribution of these clips was a form of reporting current events, and therefore fair use allowed as “citizen journalism”. The ruling was that the main objective in using Fanatix was to share clips with other users; arguably this could hinder the ECB’s agreements with service providers like Sky TV, and impinge on the exclusivity ECB holds with how and when it shares broadcasts.

It may now become more commonplace for licence fees to be agreed, allowing copyright owners to fully exploit their command of content, and negotiate any terms as they see fit. Alternatively, they are also granted the option to halt apps like Fanatix from operating completely, by denying all use of their content as supported by law.

This case helps highlight the importance of understanding what constitutes a copyright breach, and what privileges securing use of copyright and intellectual property allows.

For more information on how this could apply to you or your business, or for advice on intellectual property in general contact John Pickervance, Associate Solicitor within the Corporate and Restructuring department by email john.pickervance@forbessolicitors.co.uk or phone 0800 321 3258. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

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