Research Blog Series: Copyright, Football and European Media Rights

Raymond Boyle summarises his work on copyright and sports business models, for our Research Blog Series.


Project Name: Copyright, Football and European Media Rights

Investigator: Professor Raymond Boyle, Centre for Cultural Policy Research, University of Glasgow

What did your research aim to do?
The position of copyright in the arena of sports content rights and property rights of sporting organizations is a contested area of legal and commercial interest. Can copyright be incorporated into sports rights contracts, as it has been for many years?  This research examined the ramifications of this for the existing business models for both rights holders and broadcasters.

How did you do it?
A policy analysis was undertaken into the Murphy case (Case C-403/08 FA Premier League v QC Leisure and Case C-429/08 Karen Murphy v Media Protection Services Limited). This was supplemented by interviews with a range of key stakeholders including from the FA Premier League, the Scottish Football Association (SFA), Celtic FC, the European governing body of football (UEFA), sports rights lawyers and the Association of Commercial Television in Europe.

What are your key findings?
The copyright regime often appears that on one side of the argument are those calling for increased liberalization particularly curators and aggregators of content – and at the other end of the spectrum calling for more rigorous policing of the regime are organizations that represent content producers.

This research demonstrated that this polarized critique masks a myriad of more complex and nuanced aspects of the position of IP within the sports rights arena. Of key importance in shaping attitudes to IP are the scope, scale and value of your rights and your position in the value chain; there is an immense range and diversity that exist under the creative industries rubric and reading across from one sector to another is often unhelpful given the peculiarities of particular cultural forms and activities; The ECJ ruling (Murphy case) has resulted in a re-adjustment rather than a revolution and indeed re-stated the importance of copyright in protecting value for rights holders. At the core of the value of sports such as football is the centrality of the live event and policy intervention often has unintended consequences.

What impact has your work had so far/what impact do you anticipate it will have?
Within the media and communication field it made an intervention into the area of media sports research by placing issues of IP as increasingly important within this field.

Challenges encountered/Lessons learned
This is an area that has a high level of commercial sensitivity attached to it, as a result getting access to data and key stakeholders is challenging.  My own research contacts in the sports environment were crucial in getting access to key decision makers at the EPL, SFA, FA and UEFA.

Are there additional/new research questions still to be answered in this area?
IP remains at the centre of the economic model of elite sports.  The move from linear to platform distribution and the impact of Brexit on the UK sports marketplace are two ongoing areas of research interest for all stakeholders in this area.

How has your association with CREATe helped to take things forward?
A research culture and network that allowed me to access areas of cognate research and knowledge that normally I would not have had particularly easy access to (through conferences and informal discussions) resulted in moving my research in new directions.

Find out more: Boyle, R. (2015) Battle for control? Copyright, football and European media rights. Media, Culture and Society, 37(3), pp. 359-375. doi:10.1177/0163443714567020 

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