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Fight over football results

December 2010 - Corporate & Commercial. Legal Developments by Norrbom Vinding Law Firm, member of ius laboris.

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An English court would not rule on all issues in a case about copyright and database rights to football results because the ‚Äėtransmission‚Äô took place abroad.

UK company holds the exclusive rights to collect and publish all football results from the Premier League. It turned out, however, that a German competitor had had the same idea. The competitor collected the same data and published them on the Internet - without permission - via servers in Germany and Austria.   The UK company was not too happy about that. They sued the competitor in the English courts, claiming that the Germans were infringing their copyright and their database rights under an EU directive. The Germans, on the other hand, asked the High Court to declare that the English courts do not have jurisdiction to hear cases about their activities.  

Critical factor is often country of transmission

The High Court ruled that cases about Internet publication of copyrighted material must be heard by the court in the country where the material is being 'transmitted' from. The issue of collecting data and making the German database available to users was therefore not a matter for the English courts to decide.   But the Germans had sold access to their database to subscribers in the UK. The High Court ruled that, on that basis, the UK company had standing to sue the Germans in the UK. For by selling access to their database to UK subscribers, the Germans had facilitated the infringement of the UK company's copyright and database rights which the subscribers would allegedly be committing when downloading the contents of the German database onto their computers in the UK.

Norrbom Vinding notes:

  • that the UK case shows that the laws governing jurisdiction may lead to situations which rightholders in particular consider to be unfortunate because they may mean that infringements must be prosecuted in the country of the infringer.