News Media Coalition shares major public policy platform with the sport sector
The dangers of online piracy of copyright content to the news media sector and sport broadcasting were given high profile at the EU Sport Forum (April 8/9). During a key debate, the News Media Coalition set out the case for continued recognition of news content copyright and the dangers of certain sport organisations seeking to control news material.
Organised by the European Commission and the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Sport Forum in Bucharest brought together nearly 500 representatives from national governments, public policy-makers, sports organisations, NGOs, broadcasters and Commission officials.
The NMC – which is the only international news sector industry body which focuses on policy affecting sports news – was invited to participate in a debate entitled: ‘Are sports rights sufficiently protected?’
Andrew Moger, Director of the NMC, spoke alongside Cameron Andrews, Legal Director for Anti-Piracy at beIN MEDIA GROUP, Mark Lichtenhein, Chairman, Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC), Lucian Mircescu, Chair of the Working Party on Sport, Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU and Krisztina Stump, Deputy Head of Copyright Unit, DG CNECT, European Commission.
Moger spoke of the struggle which news companies share with others in the creative sector such as broadcasters in trying to take action against those that on an industrial scale steal copyright content without a licence or good cause and fail to properly remunerate the originators of the material.
Within a lively discussion there was a consensus on the need to better protect copyright content generally, and in the sports context in particular with certain bounds.
As a central theme, Moger argued that alongside the copyright abuse problem, the barriers imposed by certain sports organisations on creating independent news coverage in the first place was of significant concern. He said the news media (so-called non-rights holders) needed both fair opportunities to report on sport but also for their copyright to be respected: able to access sports events without restrictive terms and conditions on reporting and content use so that the public can obtain witness accounts from independent journalists and newsrooms.
As an organisational standpoint, the NMC Members embrace well-run events. They also acknowledge the importance of a vibrant commercial media rights market under-pinning the staging of sports events – so long as news reporting and news business freedoms within the independent news media sector are not curtailed.
Moger told the forum: ‘We at the news media suffer losses of millions because of the way our content is ripped off. So, we are very pleased to be here. We recognise the challenge and feel the pain.’ Referring to the NMC opposition to the Article 12a proposal within the EU copyright review for a European-wide statutory ‘neighbouring right’ for sport organisations themselves, he added: ‘At the core is the recognition of our copyright before embracing what a future sport right could look like’.
‘Where we differ is the many flavours of sports rights and we differ on how sporting organisations recognise the importance of and standing of copyright itself. Some sporting organisations are ignorant of or hostile to our copyright content. Even the sponsor of this amendment recognised that it was a mistake and we applaud those who saw it for what it is –something that SROC and others want to secure, for good reasons, but it may have unintended impacts. And without an impact assessment, I’m sorry, but we are not going to take a chance with this. So, we opposed it and pleased it has been taken out.’
Moger added: ‘One thing we can agree on is working on raising awareness of genuine copyright and copyright ownership’.
Lichtenhein, as Chairman of Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC), said the value of sport lies within the live experience which is becoming increasingly digital. The issue lies in the fact that a digital product is an easy target for online criminals. Consequently, when a live event is pirated the offending material must be removed immediately to protect the commercial value of the event.
SROC, he said, was strongly in favour of a neighbouring right for sport (Amendment 12A proposed by the Parliament) within the Copyright Directive and expressed his great disappointment that the Amendment was not in the final text. He believes this was a missed opportunity to protect sport.: “We had a positive opinion of the EU Parliament in relation to a neighbouring right for sport which would have enabled sport to have direct control over its own material. There was an amendment to the legislation approved by the Parliament. Unfortunately, that did not make it through to the final ratification process, which obviously we are disappointed about. We feel this was a missed opportunity at a time when digital piracy is becoming a greater problem. We felt that the ability of sport to intervene directly to make sure that it rights are enforced would have been very good for society as a whole and good for sport. We hope that future legislators will continue to recognise the need for sport to protect its intellectual property and perhaps future commissions and parliaments that situation can be fully recognised”
Krisztina Stump, Deputy Head of Copyright Unit, DG CNECT, European Commission told the forum that in relation to Article 12a, Amendment 12a, there was no concrete evidence as to why there should be such an important intervention at the European level; no impact assessment made on the potential effects the amendment could have on other industries. Whilst the Commission could not support the right, it agreed to a Declaration which recognises the importance of sport to Europe’s social and economic cohesion. She said: “Mark has set the scene quite well, but I may not necessarily agree on every point. Indeed, the EC has been faced with this discussion related to Copyright Directive. In this debate the European Parliament proposed to introduce a new specific right for the protection of sport organisers. However, the co-legislators (EP and Council) could not agree on granting this right and the Commission was not proposing this right at the beginning. Indeed, what we could do in this regard now is issue this declaration in the contact of this directive which acknowledges the problem that sport organisers face. It acknowledges the important and societal and economic impact of sports events and it commits to assess the specific challenges that sports organisers are facing in the online environment. Why are we not in favour at this point to legislate at this matter? When the EC is doing legislation at the European level it needs to be robust and evidenced based legislation. We concluded at this point that we do not have concrete evidence for such an important intervention to grant this right. When we do legislation at the European level, we need to assess the issue, assess whether an intervention is needed and what kind of intervention is needed. In particular what consequences are there from such a right. Granting a new right does not only impact on sports organisers. It has an impact on broadcasters, citizens and other industries involved in sport. What is the best way to tackle the issue?’
Mircescu, Chair of the Working Party on Sport, Romanian Presidency of the Council of the EU said: ‘From the Sport Working party’s perspective, we are very interested in matters related to the financing of sport. We recognise financial transfers between professional and grassroots sport. We need to assess what we need to regulate. Before starting to come with new legislation we need to look more into consumer behaviour: why are we pirating the content?’ He stressed that the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the Council as a whole recognise the problems the sports industry face through online piracy. Other legislative avenues could be examined to clamp down on piracy.
Andrews, from BeIn recalled the scale of piracy problem afflicting sport in today’s world. Cameron gave a high-profile example of the Saudi based firm beoutQ which is prolifically pirating BeIN content. Cameron outlined 3 different types of illegal streaming:1) Open web streaming consisting of illegal websites which are becoming more available and accessible; 2) Closed Network Subscription services providing hundreds of channels at a low price; 3) Social media live streaming are enabling users to re-stream live content. It is a ready-made tool to pirate content.
He said, combined, these three present real harm to the sports industry and European model of sport.
“We are suffering from an acute piracy issue at the moment in the Middle East from a Saudi based piracy outfit beoutQ, which has been re-broadcasting BeIn content. What are we talking about? Piracy is not a new thing for broadcasters. We are talking about restreaming on the internet. Why is this happening? Simple explanation – it is extremely easy. This has reached a stage in recent years where fast broadband is ubiquitous and there are cloud-based servers, it is very cheap, it is very easy. What’s the harm? Lost value to broadcasters. Degradation of the value of the rights – less money going into sport. Also, less tax revenue. What can be done about it? Two things which could be quite effective. 1st – notice and take down pirate sites. The issue is that the system does not work for us. You cannot wait a day for a takedown notice to take effect. It must happen straight away. The second thing is we can block the servers delivering the streams. This has taken place in the UK, but must take place more within the EU.’