Copyright protection more important than ever in digital age

Written by Mark Lichtenhein on 12 July 2016 in Thought Leader
Thought Leader

Copyright protection is more important than ever in the digital age, says Mark Lichtenhein.

Mark Lichtenhein  | Photo credit: SROC

Over the last two years, we have seen many statements and actions towards the European Commission's "more modern, European copyright framework," primarily in the context of the digital single market (DSM). 

And sport, not least through the Sports Rights Owners Coalition (SROC) which I chair, has been fully engaged in many of the debates that have taken place, particularly with respect to copyright and territorial exclusivity.

Sports rights owners rely on copyright law to sell their rights and create income that can be reinvested into their sport. The commercial exploitation and protection of these rights against infringements is critical to the sustainable financing of both professional and grassroots sports.


The digital revolution has created many commercial opportunities but it has also made it easier for data to be exploited without consent. 

Without a solid and enforceable copyright framework, both offline and online, sports will no longer be able to deliver the huge economic and social benefits at national and local level that are both hoped for and expected.

We've had Commission assurances throughout the DSM consultations that the territoriality principle that underpins the customised fan experience enjoyed by hundreds of millions of European Union citizens across all member states is not in question. 

Indeed, the proposed cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market regulation currently working its way through the European Parliament - which in principle we support - is built on the foundation of territoriality.

However, having seemingly solved the cross-border demand question through the portability regulation, the exact same issues surrounding cross-border access look to be re-opened following a review of the satellite and cable directive. This would extend the country of origin principle to the internet in new copyright proposals from the Commission in the autumn.

My Coalition believes that any attempt to do so is fundamentally flawed, as it would negate the understanding that has already been reached with the Commission, as well as undoing all the work that has gone into the Portability Regulation.

Sports broadcasts and their digital derivatives must be subject to the copyright protection they receive through their exclusive territorial arrangements.

Allowing copyright to be cleared in one member state for distribution across the EU would, by definition, end any notion of territorial exclusivity, destroy the business models of European broadcasters, and simultaneously reduce choice and raise the cost of content.

Cross-border access to content should not become confused with the right to buy a product or service built under a completely different legal and financial premise. Such access, unless carefully limited, will clearly undermine the very existence of the content in question.


About the author

Mark Lichtenhein is Chair of the Sports Rights Owners Coalition

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