Win for sports media company

Posted: 11th February 2013

A sports media company that spends £600,000-a-year gathering minute-by-minute information on hundreds of football matches has triumphed in its fight to stop unpaid usage of its database. In an important decision that lays down the law on data protection, the Court of Appeal ruled that the company’s rights under the Database Directive (96/9/EC) had been infringed by two companies that facilitated public access to information from its service without payment of licence fees.

Football groundThe claimant company uses an extensive network of football analysts, many of them ex-professional footballers, to attend games and give running commentaries on events on the pitch by mobile phone. The ‘live’ data gathered is stored in a form which the court ruled was ‘indisputably a database within the meaning of the directive.’

The defendant companies – one of them an online bookmaker based in Gibraltar – had extracted or re-utilised, without payment, a substantial part of the information stored on the database to provide match information to their clients. Emphasising the claimant’s considerable investment in gathering the data, the court ruled that both defendants, as well as their clientele, had infringed the claimant’s database rights.

Holding that the defendants and members of the public who accessed the protected information had acted as joint tortfeasors, the court noted that such infringement ‘puts at risk the investment made by others’. Rejecting arguments that the defendants could not be held responsible for infringement by their clients, the court stated: ‘Once a party has procured an act which amounts to infringement by another he has effectively made it his own act.’