UK: Free For All On Football Fixture Lists

Last Updated: 9 March 2012
Article by Susan Barty and Lucy Kilshaw

The CJEU has confirmed that copyright protection for football fixture lists as databases is not possible where skill and labour has been expended only in the creation of the lists, rather than in the selection or arrangement of data.  The Court had acknowledged in the Fixtures Marketing case in 2004 that football fixture lists were databases, but then ruled out the possibility of protection under the separate database right. This latest effort at using copyright to protect the work involved in compiling fixture lists has probably failed and will inevitably come as disappointing news for sports licensing bodies which are likely now to lose considerable licensing revenues.  

To view the article in full, please see below:

Full Article

The CJEU has confirmed that copyright protection for football fixture lists as databases is not possible where skill and labour has been expended only in the creation of the lists, rather than in the selection or arrangement of data. The Court had acknowledged in the Fixtures Marketing case in 2004 that football fixture lists were databases, but then ruled out the possibility of protection under the separate database right. This latest effort at using copyright to protect the work involved in compiling fixture lists has probably failed and will inevitably come as disappointing news for sports licensing bodies which are likely now to lose considerable licensing revenues.

This case started in the English courts, which had given some support to the idea that fixture lists may be protectable by copyright. In May 2010 the High Court found that English and Scottish football fixture lists were not protectable under database right law, following the Fixtures Marketing case, C-46/02, as there had not been substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting content (as contrasted with creating data). However, it decided that such lists could be protected by copyright under Article 3 of the Database Directive 96/9/EC which applies to databases as copyright works in themselves, if such databases, "by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents, constitute the author's own intellectual creation".

The fixture lists were compiled according to various rules, which required substantial and complex work, some automated and some manual, and considerable judgement and skill. The High Court ordered that they did qualify as copyright works and this finding was consistent with older English law on the protection of football fixture lists as literary works (Football League Ltd -v- Littlewood Pools, 1959).

On appeal, the Court of Appeal considered that the copyright position was unclear, so referred the following questions to the CJEU:

1. In Article 3(1) of Directive 96/9... what is meant by "databases which, by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents, constitute the author's own intellectual creation" and in particular:

  • Should the intellectual effort and skill of creating data be excluded?
  • Does "selection or arrangement" include adding important significance to a pre-existing item of data (as in fixing the date of a football match)?
  • Does "author's own intellectual creation" require more than significant labour and skill from the author, and if so what?

On these issues the Court of Appeal saw force in the arguments of both sides. The claimants argued that the data consisted of matches to be played, which had to be (skillfully) arranged. The defendants argued that Article 3 referred to selecting or arranging pre-existing data and that the intellectual input here was in creating data.

2. Does the Directive preclude national rights in the nature of copyright in databases other than those provided for by the Directive?

On this question the Court of Appeal doubted that the Database Directive intended to preserve national laws as to subsistence of copyright in databases, as this would have defeated the point of harmonisation. However, there was sufficient uncertainty to justify a referral.

CJEU Judgment

The Court, partly following the Advocate General's reasoning, found against the claimants. It decided as follows:

  • "copyright and database right are two independent rights whose object and conditions of applications differ;
  • the copyright protection provided by the Database Directive concerns structure and not contents, so the protection does not extend to the data itself; "selection" and "arrangement" relate to structure and not to data creation;
  • the purpose of Directive is consistent with this, as the recitals confirm that the purpose is to stimulate creation of data storage and processing systems to contribute to the development of an information generating market; the purpose is not to protect creation of materials capable of being collected in a database;
  • therefore the intellectual effort and skill needed to create the data is not relevant to copyright under the Directive, unless it expresses originality in the selection or arrangement of data;
  • it is irrelevant whether or not selection or arrangement of that data includes the addition of important significance to that data (the Advocate General had mooted this as a possible way of qualifying for database protection);
  • "intellectual creation" under the Directive refers only to originality (reference was made to the CJEU case of Infopaq, C-5/08);
  • the originality criterion is satisfied where through selection or arrangement of data, the author expresses his creative ability in an original manner by making free choices and "stamps his personal touch"; it is not satisfied where setting up of the database is dictated by technical considerations, rules or constraints which leave no room for creative freedom;
  • the national court must assess – but unless the procedures for creating lists, as described by the English court, are supplemented by elements reflecting originality in selection or arrangement of data contained in the lists, there cannot be copyright protection;
  • the Directive has completely harmonised the level of protection accorded to databases, and subject to limited transitional provisions, it precludes national legislation which offers a different measure of copyright protection.


The English High Court, having been particularly influenced by the amount of time and skill involved in creating complex fixture lists, had tried to find a way to circumvent the CJEU's previous decisions concerning database rights which were unhelpful to rights owners. However, the copyright argument has largely failed and it is difficult to see how the case can be found in the claimants' favour once it returns to the Court of Appeal.

However, as the Directive makes clear, copyright will still subsist in individual works within databases, for example, photographs. In this case the Advocate General had also commented that it may be possible for a football fixture list to be protected by copyright if sufficiently original features are introduced, for example, a particular manner of representing the matches through colour or other graphic elements, which would protect the means of representation and not the data itself. This is something which database creators should consider, as well as working harder to incorporate truly creative elements into their selection and arrangement of data.

The Court of Appeal's final judgment is awaited, but it seems likely that in the UK the ambit of copyright protection for compilations and database type works will have narrowed: hard work and intellectual effort in creating the data appear not to be enough obtain protection. Further, in analysing the protection accorded to any database, there remains the difficult and somewhat artificial line to draw between creation of data, and the selection and arrangement of data, which this judgment does little to clarify.

Football Dataco Ltd & others v YAHOO! UK Ltd & others, CJEU, Case C-604/10, 1 March 2012

This article was written for Law-Now, CMS Cameron McKenna's free online information service. To register for Law-Now, please go to

Law-Now information is for general purposes and guidance only. The information and opinions expressed in all Law-Now articles are not necessarily comprehensive and do not purport to give professional or legal advice. All Law-Now information relates to circumstances prevailing at the date of its original publication and may not have been updated to reflect subsequent developments.

The original publication date for this article was 02/03/2012.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.