EXCLUSIVE: New EU Copyright Directive a ‘missed opportunity’ for sport, rights-holders say

The final wording of the European Union’s new Copyright Directive does not address the kind of piracy that is undermining the value of sports properties, industry body the Sports Rights Owners Coalition has told SportBusiness Media.

The European Parliament voted in favour of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market on March 26. It was approved by the EU Council of Member States on April 9. Member states now have two years to bring their national laws in to line with the Directive.

Mark Lichtenhein, chairman of the Sports Rights Owners Coalition, a forum of over 50 international sports bodies, told SportBusiness Media the Directive was “a missed opportunity for sport.”

SROC’s members include football governing bodies such as Fifa and Uefa, football leagues including England’s Premier League and Spain’s LaLiga, and tennis bodies the French Tennis Federation and the Women’s Tennis Association.

The coalition had put forward an amendment, Article 12a, that would have established for the first time in European law that the organiser of the sports event was the owner of the media rights to that event. The article was removed late in the drafting process as a compromise with free-speech campaigners, who argued it would give rights-holders draconian powers over what happens inside a sports arena.

“We’re pretty disappointed,” Lichtenhein said. “Article 12a had huge support from the European Parliament, which would have established a neighbouring right for sport for the very first time and a big result from that would have been the ability for us to act directly in the fight against piracy. At the moment, we are very dependent on our broadcasters to get pirated content removed from platforms.”

The Directive will require greater policing by social media platforms such as Facebook and YouTube of user-generated content (UGC) which breaches a rights-holder’s copyright. However, it does little or nothing to address the real threat to rights-holders: piracy of the live feed.

“The value is in live; more than 90 per cent of the value of sport is in the live experience. This is the issue for sport which differentiates us from music or film,” Lichtenhein added. “The UGC stuff is annoying. But it’s really the organised crime around making live streams, building IPTV boxes, things like the [Saudi pirate service] beoutQ situation, that massively undermines the whole value proposition for broadcasters and rights owners. Including 12a would have been a positive step that would have resonated around the world.”

To read the full interview with Lichtenhein click here.