Copyright Infringement - Eight Seconds Enough

When a sports website was found to be providing unauthorised video clips of international cricket matches, the England and Wales Cricket Board and Sky UK Limited – to whom certain broadcast rights had been exclusively licensed – took a dim view of the matter and legal proceedings followed against the operators of the website for breach of copyright.

The clips that were reproduced on the sports website were short, lasting only up to eight seconds. They were posted to its related Twitter feeds and its Facebook page, as well as to the website, using an 'app' by which users of the website could record clips and post them with their own commentary.

The operators of the sports website had no licence to broadcast the cricket matches.

Although Sky's broadcast rights were limited, they included:

  • six clips (each of an average duration of 30 seconds averaged over the match day) per hour per match day, the total duration of which was not to exceed three minutes per hour of footage; and
  • a package of up to 2½ minutes of highlights of footage, which could be updated up to five times during the match day and once after the close of play.

Sky paid a very considerable sum for the broadcast rights.

In essence, the app suppliers' defence against the action was that it was not a breach of copyright as it was 'fair dealing for the purposes of reporting current events' or, alternatively, that it was the mere conduit for its subscribers to circulate their material. They also argued that changes made to the app to limit the number of clips a user could view in a day backed up their claims, at least in later versions of the app.

The defences were thrown out by the court.