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ECJ rules against Sky Austria in clips case

The European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court, has told Sky Austria that it is not allowed to charge rival broadcasters for using clips of the pay-television broadcaster’s coverage of football matches in news reports.

Under the ECJ’s directive, a broadcaster with exclusive rights to show sports events must allow rival broadcasters access to the signal so they can select extracts of up to 90 seconds for news bulletins. Any access must be provided at cost price.

“The limitation of costs for broadcasting short news events of high interest to the public, such as football matches, is valid,” the ECJ said. The court added that such rights “have asset value and do not constitute mere commercial interests or opportunities.”

Sky, which held exclusive rights to Uefa Europa League club football matches within Austria for three years, from 2009-10 to 2011-12, had challenged a ruling by KommAustria, the Austrian media regulator, that public-service broadcaster ORF should only have to pay for the cost of accessing the satellite signal in order to show clips of Sky’s coverage of the tournament.

However, an advocate-general of the ECJ backed KommAustria’s stance with a non-binding opinion in June, and the court has now ratified the directive.

Sky said: “In the name of all owners of exclusive rights, Sky has tried to reach clarification on whether the provision of exclusive content free of charge constitutes a disproportionate intervention in the basic right of ownership. The confirmation of the verdict will not change the cooperation with other TV stations which has been practised since 2010.”