The News Media Coalition (NMC) has expressed its support for the European Commission’s endeavours to maintain a balance between fighting online piracy of live event footage and safeguarding media freedom in the legitimate use of such content.
Today (May 4th, 2023), the European Commission formally responded to demands from the professional sport sector for the legislative and technical means to crackdown on worldwide piracy of events they stage.
The Commission’s Recommendation, which is non-binding for member states, focuses on three primary aspects: swift handling of notices related to live events, dynamic injunctions, and commercial offers and awareness. Key provisions in the Recommendation include urging hosting service providers to act promptly to minimize the harm caused by illegal streaming, in line with the Digital Services Act, and advocating for the use of blocking injunctions specific to live events. It also emphasizes increasing the accessibility, affordability, and attractiveness of commercial offers to end users and raising awareness of legal offers and piracy among enforcement authorities.
Importantly, for the News Media sector, the recommendation has sought to avoid measures that – while targeted at sport piracy – could hamper the legitimate use of footage for news purposes. It states that ’the unauthorised retransmission of live events should be distinguished’ from any such content ‘shared by journalists for the purpose of informing the general public, including in real time.’
NMC’s CEO, Andrew Moger, said: ‘For both the sport industry and the news sector, piracy of content is a major issue. As a long-standing problem, piracy of live sports and other events has inflicted substantial damage upon the creative and sports industries. The losses suffered by sport and its rights holders when seen against the licensed environment, particularly at the start of an event, are enormous. But there does need to be care when finding a solution.’
The Commission has given itself 30 months (to November 17th, 2025) to monitor the effectiveness of those measures included in the recommendation.
Moger added: ‘We can understand the frustration of the sports industry, which wants swift action. We hope that the European Commission’s new Recommendation is a measured step toward addressing this issue.’
Legitimate use of content
The published Recommendation states measures should not apply to any legitimate use of content. ‘In particular, the unauthorised retransmission of live events should be distinguished from any use of content protected by copyright and related rights in accordance with any limitations or exceptions provided for under Directive 2001/29/EC or Directive (EU) 2019/790 of the European Parliament and of the Council, such as audio clips or videos shared among and by persons in the audience of a live event or shared by journalists for the purpose of informing the general public, including in real time.’
It continues: ‘In addition, this Recommendation does not apply to the short news reports prepared by broadcasting organisations in accordance with Article 15 of the Directive 2010/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council, for instance by relying on short extracts chosen from the signal of a broadcasting organisation transmitting on an exclusive basis.’
The Commission will closely monitor, together with the EUIPO Observatory, the effects of this Recommendation. On the basis of this monitoring exercise, the Commission will assess the effects of the Recommendation on unauthorised retransmissions of live sports and other live events by 17 November 2025. This is also the deadline by which the Commission will evaluate the way the Digital Services Act interacts with other legal acts, including copyright legislation. The Commission will then decide whether additional measures are needed at the EU level, in view of technological developments, as well as the evolution of distribution channels and consumption patterns.
Some MEPs and the Association of Commercial Television and Video on Demand Services (ACT), expressed disappointment about the review period. Grégoire Polad, ACT Director General, commented: “This essentially allows the present Commission to deliver little to nothing on this issue before the end of this mandate… This is a political and unilateral decision that will cost Europe’s creative economy dearly at a time when it needs it most.”
The Commission, in collaboration with the EUIPO Observatory, will monitor the Recommendation’s impact and assess its effects on unauthorized retransmissions of live events by 17 November 2025. It will also evaluate the interaction between the Digital Services Act and other legal acts, including copyright legislation, deciding whether additional EU-level measures are necessary.