Protection of internet broadcast rights of sports events (part I)

Source: Beijing Docvit Law Firm  Time: 2018-12-14 17:32:37  Author: The Sports Business Team of Beijing Docvit Law Firm


Abstract: The Internet broadcast rights of sports events is the result of a combination of sports and new media. The broadcast of sports events dates back to the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. The rapid development of network technology has greatly expanded the way and content of sports events broadcast. At present, the legal concept of internet broadcast rights for sports events is not clear in China, and the protection measures are not perfect. The Sports Business Team of Beijing Docvit Law Firm will analyze the legal nature of internet broadcast rights of sports events and discuss the legal protection issues.

. The legal nature of internet broadcast rights of sports events

1. Concept

Internet broadcast rights are the rights to allow online media to broadcast sports events to the public and thus enjoy economic benefits. The subjects of internet broadcast rights are organizers of sports events or internet media. According to the content, the internet broadcast rights of sports events can be divided into the rights of live broadcast, the rights of events collection and the right of news reports, etc. The original source of the internet broadcast rights is sports organization. After the network media buy the sports events broadcasting rights from sports organization, it creates new derivative rights, internet broadcast rights, by making events programs.

It is worth noting that the current law of China does not have a clear stipulation on the broadcasting right of sports events. The above concept is just a widely accepted concept formed by the network media in the process of continuous broadcasting and reporting of sports events.

2. The theory of legal nature

The internet broadcast rights of sports events are a new thing, and the understanding of their legal attributes is quite different in different countries. At present, there are several kinds of theories in the world:

(1) The theory of the right of access to sports ground

If a TV station wants to broadcast a sports competition, it must first obtain permission from the owner or manager of the stadium to enter the stadium’s land. Once approved, the television station is granted an abstract right of "broadcast right".

(2) The theory of enterprise right

Sports competition is a kind of commercial activity of sports clubs, and the broadcasting right of sports events is an exclusive right of the clubs.

(3) The theory of property right

Broadcasting right of sports events in the United States is regarded as a property right, and the owner of a sports club is regarded as the owner of broadcasting right of sports events. 

At present, the legal concept of internet broadcast rights of sports events in China has not been clearly defined, and the dispute on its legal attribute is even more fierce. The differences among domestic legal scholars mainly focus on whether the broadcasting right belongs to copyright or property right.

The theory of copyright holds that the broadcasting right of sports events belongs to the creative labor formed by the organic integration of material creation and direct broadcast process. Therefore, the broadcasting right of sports events belongs to the category of intellectual property and should be protected by the Copyright Law.

The theory of property right holds that under the action of sports professionalization and commercialization, sports competition should be a kind of service product. The broadcasting right of sports events should also be considered as a kind of income right of the product owner, and therefore it should be a kind of property right.

In addition to the two mainstream views mentioned above, there are also views in academic circles on the legal nature of the broadcasting right of sports events, such as the right to commercialize, the right of performers, the right to communicate in public places, and so on. These views can be used as references to better understand the legal nature of the broadcasting right of sports events.

. The legal protection of internet broadcast rights of sports events

The cost to broadcasters of major events is not low. The reality, however, is that the broadcasting right of sports events that are heavily paid for are difficult to be effectively protected by the law. Take the "Phoenix New Media broadcast event" as an example, Phoenix New Media was found to have infringed the broadcasting rights of Sina and assumed civil liability, but the compensation was only 500,000 yuan. The compensation is clearly disproportionate to the cost that Sina pays to obtain exclusive broadcasting rights, but this is already the maximum amount of compensation provided by the Copyright Law in the event that the loss is uncertain. 

The behavior of network theft is becoming more and more prominent. In addition to online pirating sports events directly, there are also online users uploading videos of sports events to sharing software, which in turn triggers litigation. The behavior of network theft seriously damages the economic interests of the relevant right holders, and then affects the healthy development of the whole sports industry. It is imperative to strengthen the protection of the intellectual property rights of the internet broadcast rights of sports events. 

In the next article, The Sports Business Team of Beijing Docvit Law Firm will analyze the legal protection measures of internet broadcast rights of sports events.


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