Measures aimed at combatting widespread piracy of live broadcast of sport need to avoid damaging the role of the News Media in reporting on events, the European Parliament was told yesterday (22/09/20).
Industrial-scale piracy of live match footage has badly hit the market in commercial broadcast media content rights and MEPs sitting on the European Parliament’s Culture Committee yesterday debated how to help the sports industry tackle the problem while at the same time not allowing new measures to impact on other sectors such as news-gathering and freedom of expression.
Irena Joveva, Slovenian MEP for Renew Europe and a Shadow Rapporteur in the CULT committee, urged public policymakers to take great care. She said: ‘There are issues with content rights, as online streaming opened a lot of ways for abuses – content or media rights are especially important for broadcasters or umbrella sports organisations from which the bulk of revenues comes.’
Joveva stressed the need to balance ‘protections of copyright’ against eroding ‘fundamental rights, fundamental values such as freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and most importantly users’ privacy issues online.’
‘Therefore, we must shield all points with precise and thoroughly thought regulation to create regulatory clarity with robust safeguards for a fair level playing field for all stakeholders, a secure environment for all users and consumers and leave media ability or conditions to report and inform the public intact and improved.’
She added: ‘Needless to say that sport and all its participants whether sportsmen, sportswomen, broadcasters, sports organisations, media covering sport they were all hit hard by the COVID crisis and we must make sure that recovery of these sectors is immediate and long-lasting while adapting to new circumstances. While the digitalisation in this area brings many opportunities and benefits for all and can widen the extent of how we participate in sport from the perspective of viewers, organisers, organisations, media and other stakeholders it also comes with a lot of challenges that we must address here in this house so I’m really happy that we will do that also with this file.’
Last year – during the negotiations on the Copyright Directive – the European Commission and the Member States rejected calls to deal with broadcast piracy by introducing new intellectual property rights for sports organisers. The European Commission opposed a neighbouring right for sports organisations but said it would look at the challenges facing sport and their broadcast partners.
The News Media Coalition, whose news publisher and news agency Members, continue to produce news reports on reports in extremely difficult circumstances, also opposed a ‘sport neighbouring copyright’ because of the risk that this would lead to the undermining of their copyright and control on news operations.
The CULT committee’s rapporteur, MEP Frankowski (EPP, Poland) said that ‘sport in the European Union is important and the organisers in the digital era are faced with challenges in particular in relation to illegal internet broadcasting.’ He added: ‘Now this really is a very complicated issue and in different countries and the European there’s a lot of work being done to improve the situation but live broadcasts are 90 per cent of the broadcasts and if you look at how long a sporting event lasts it is often the case that spectators look at the first 30 minutes of a game then don’t look at the rest. Many sporting events are cross border events and so if you look at the E-commerce Directive you see illegal content really needs to be stopped very fast. This is something we need to tackle in a hurry.’
Petra Kammerevert (S&D, Germany) in her report has also raised this problem and called on the Commission to act., because there is no single legal framework in the various countries either within the EU and certainly not outside of the EU. Legal content needs to be promoted and each spectator needs to be able to see where he or she can find a game online legally. I look forward to your reactions on this.’
MEP Hannes Heide (S&D, Germany), also a shadow rapporteur said there was a need for an EU wide regulation to ensure illegal broadcasting disappears fast and to ‘tackle the platforms that host these illegal broadcasts’.
Spanish MEP Diana Riba I Giner, the Greens shadow rapporteur said the important issue is the balance between public interest and consumer protection, together with intellectual property rights and exclusivity.
In coming days, the CULT committee plans to submit its contribution to discussions within the European Parliament’s legal (JURI) committee which is taking the lead in identifying how to address live broadcast piracy while taking into account the concerns of other stakeholders. Frankowski said he wanted to work with his rapporteur colleagues on the various viewpoints.
Krisztina Stump, Deputy Head of Unit at the European Commission’s Copyright Unit reminded the MEP’s that several Member States offer legal protection under national law and the broadcasters neighbouring right can offer protection. She added that the commission is ready to offer technical advice.