(CN) – Schedules of British soccer games are not eligible for copyright protection, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled.
The United Kingdom’s top soccer leagues and Football Dataco Ltd. claimed that Yahoo’s British subsidiary, bookmaker Stan James and sports information company Enetpulse violated intellectual property rights when they used the leagues’ schedules, called “fixture lists,” without permission.
Unsure whether the lists were eligible for copyright protection, the national court asked the Court of Justice to intercede. That Luxemburg-based institution found Thursday that the lists are not creative enough under the European Union’s copyright laws, though they do require much work.
“The significant labor and skill required for setting up that database cannot as such justify such a protection if they do not express any originality in the selection or arrangement of the data which that database contains,” the court ruled.
A copyright-law expert familiar with the case said the leagues’ bid will likely end on remand to the national court.
“The Court of Justice’s ruling closes the door on Football Dataco’s attempts to extract licence fees from people and companies who want to use football fixture lists,” Pinsent Masons attorney Iain Connor said in a statement on the firm’s website Thursday. “This ruling shows common sense prevailing and provides certainty in an area of law which was in desperate need of clarification. Bookmakers and news services can now make available football fixture lists to their customers at the start of a season to allow the public to plan their football viewing for the year ahead.”