Intellectual property rights: driving global sports

Author:Mark Lichtenhein
Position:Chairman of the Sports Rights Owners’ Coalition (SROC)
SUMMARY

“Everyone’s doing it”. “It does not do any harm”. These are common refrains when discussing the issue of illegal online streaming of sports content. There is a widespread perception among the general public that intellectual property (IP) infringement is a victimless crime, but this is not the case. As we look towards World Intellectual Property Day on April 26, it is important to consider the... (see full summary)

 
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As the Sports Rights Owners’ Coalition (SROC), we represent more than 50 international, European and national sports bodies across a diverse range of sports. As such, individually and collectively, we represent a majority of international sports and competitions. Therefore, we are well placed to underline the importance of protecting our IP rights so we can best serve our fans and the sports community as a whole.

IP protection becomes ever more challenging

With every passing year comes new challenges in terms of how our IP rights can be infringed, making the task of protecting them ever more difficult. In large part, this is because of the major technological advances of recent years, which are transforming the way people consume entertainment content. The expansion of high-speed Internet around the world, the proliferation of portable devices and the rise of online streaming platforms and IPTV technologies, have made tackling the illegal exploitation of our rights much more difficult. We must now confront thousands of websites that illegally stream content in real time. These sites are accessible to everyone with an Internet connection and almost as quickly as they are taken down, they can be put back up in a different form. Add to this the significant advertising revenues these sites and related intermediaries generate from the huge volumes of traffic they receive, and it is easy to understand why illegal streaming has become so lucrative. The hosting of these illegal websites in multiple locations around the world requires a harmonized international approach.

The sale of the media rights for sports competitions is the life-blood of sports at all levels, from the elite athletes down to amateur grassroots participants.

Investing in grassroots

News headlines often highlight the significant sums that broadcasters are paying to secure the rights to broadcast sports competitions. However, what the money from the sale of these rights enables the sports sector to achieve often goes unmentioned.

The sale of the media rights for sports competitions is the life-blood of sports at all levels, from the elite athletes down to amateur grassroots participants. In several communications, the European Commission has underlined that “the exploitation of intellectual property rights in the area of sport, such as licensing of retransmission of sport events or merchandising, represents important sources of income for professional sports. Revenue derived from...

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