In a report adopted on Wednesday, MEPs set out proposals to crack down on the growing phenomenon of illegal broadcasting of live sporting events. To help combat the problem, MEPs call on the Commission to clarify and improve the current EU framework on intellectual property rights for live sport events, currently not subject to copyright protection, and to introduce specific provisions regarding the rights of sport event organisers, for whom licensing of broadcasting rights are a key source of income. Some member states, however, have introduced specific legal protection from which organisers can benefit.
Timely removal of illegal sports content
According to MEPs, existing rules need to be adapted to address the specific short-term value of live sport events and concrete measures should be introduced to ensure the immediate removal of illegal content, under effective safeguards. Given that illegal streams are most harmful in the first thirty minutes of their appearance online, the text calls for such streams to be removed or disabled immediately and no later than thirty minutes following a notification by rights holders or a certified “trusted flagger”.
MEPs reiterate the importance of hosting platforms acting swiftly to remove content and call for an EU system establishing common criteria for certified “trusted flaggers” to be introduced, as well as further harmonisation of procedures and remedies in the future Digital Services Act and in other sector-specific proposals.
Injunction procedures to remove illegal sporting events must avoid arbitrary or excessive blocking of legal content, insist MEPs. Enforcement measures should be proportionate and include access to judicial remedies, in particular for small businesses, SMEs and start-ups.
Legal offers on sport content should also be promoted more effectively in the EU and made easier for consumers to find online. The liability for illegal broadcasts should lie with the providers of sport streams, and not with the fans or consumers, clarify MEPs.
The report was adopted with 479 votes in favour, 171 against and 40 abstentions.
The rapporteur Angel Dzhambazki (ECR, BG) said: “The piracy of live sport events is a major challenge for sport event organisers. The problem with existing measures is that enforcement comes too late. The report calls on the Commission to clarify and adapt existing legislation, including the possibility of issuing injunctions requesting the real-time blocking of access to or removal of unauthorised online content.”
In the context of the 2019 copyright directive, the Commission has stated it is assessing the challenges faced by sport event organisers in the digital environment, in particular issues related to the illegal online transmissions of sport broadcasts and has committed to follow up on Parliament’s proposals to address these challenges. The proposal on the Digital Services Act, currently being scrutinised by Parliament, presents broad measures to counter illegal content online, but does not address the challenges faced by specific sectors.