Sunday, 4 September 2011

Editorial comment: German fixture lists

BERLIN - Drafting the new Interstate Treaty on Gambling (ITG) in Germany has - so far - not been a smooth process. Only last month the European Commission rejected the draft text of a new ITG, stating it was not compatible with EU law. This was followed by a decision of the leaders of the German Federal States to postpone a final decision on the new legislation until October, which means that it becomes even more unlikely a new regulatory framework will be in place before the current ITG expires on 31 December. 

On top of that, the federal states still have to deal with enfant terrible Schleswig-Holstein. Germany’s most northern state is still campaigning for its own, much more liberal online gambling regime, a scenario that is out of the question for most other states. The State, however, did announce on 22 August its intention to postpone its draft legislation. If that is not enough, the process of market regulation is being further frustrated - and probably further delayed - by the emergence of a new player.

The Bundesliga, the German federal sports body for football, has joined the gambling debate by threatening to charge betting operators for the use of their fixtures lists - the lists with competition times and places, which are subject to copyright, according to the Bundesliga. This way, operators will be prevented from using the Bundesliga’s fixtures lists free of charge, making sports betting impossible without transferring large sums of money to the sports body. 

However, if the Federal States agree to open up their sports betting markets to more competition, the sport body will drop its intellectual property demands - it is, therefore, a blatant attempt to influence the current legislative process. And the Bundesliga’s copyright claims did not fall on deaf ears within Germany’s sports community. A new, potentially lucrative, revenue stream was instantly recognised, so it did not come as a surprise that the national handball, basketball and tennis federations have announced they will follow the Bundesliga’s lead.  

Germany’s football federation’s unexpected move has raised legal questions. Firstly, sports organisations as such are not part of the ITG. The fact that they can use fixture lists is automatically presumed and not explicitly mentioned. Secondly, does a copyright claim on fixture lists actually exist? German lawyers seem unable to agree but the sports organisations certainly think so. Luckily, as it seems, legal experts still have some time to answer this question. 

Published previously in the August issue of World Online Gambling Law Report, CPP, copyrights apply at all times, London 2011. Picture: