Copyright in a Webcast

A recent decision out of a federal court in Texas (Live Nation Motor Sports Inc. f/k/a SFX Motor Sports Inc. v. Davis d/b/a TripleClamps) has ruled that a webcast of a live sporting event is protectable by copyright.  This in itself is not particularly ground-breaking.  Original content such as a webcast is expected to be the subject of copyright protection, much like a television broadcast would be.    

However, the decision has attracted attention because the court ordered the defendant to take down its link to the protected webcast.  This means that, in this case, an unauthorized hyperlink amounted to copyright infringement.  There has been much legal debate about when links should be considered copyright infringement, since links go to the heart of the functioning of the internet.  

Unfortunately, the court did not provide much guidance on the difference between merely displaying a link to the page on which the audio webcast was posted (much like the “deep linking” cases such as Ticketmaster vs. Tickets.com), as opposed to providing direct unauthorized streaming of the protected webcast.  The defendant in this case appears to have been engaged in unauthorized streaming, but the court order only dealt with the defendant’s link to the webcast. 

If you read the decision, two lessons will emerge:

1.  The plaintiff prepared its case well, made strong economic arguments to support its claim for protection, and ensured that it had adequately warned the defendant to cease and desist;

2.  By contrast, the defendant appeared disorganized, contradictory and made a baseless counterclaim for trade-mark infringement.  At one point, the defendant compared the plaintiff to Ghengis Khan.  All of which helped the plaintiff win.

Calgary – 09:46 MST

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