Confiscation of websites that broadcast soccer matches

On the 11th of January 2013, the Milan court GIP (pre-trial examining judge) has ordered the confiscation of ten websites that allowed internet users to watch championship and Champions League soccer matches in streaming (among these and This measure caused some controversy, also because the broadcasting of sports events is often a disputed matter. The Court of Justice took an important decision on the 4th of October 2011 that states

«sport matches cannot be considered intellectual property that can be classified as works according to the copyright law. This is especially true for soccer matches, which are regulated by the game’s rules that don’t allow creative freedom. In consideration of the above, soccer matches cannot be protected using the copyright law.» However «sport matches acquire a unique and, in that respect, original nature that can give them the chance to be protected like works are, wheres this protection can be granted by the internal legal orders.»

If the soccer matches in themselves don’t benefit from copyright protection, audio-video rights and the broadcast of the soccer match “images” constitute a different matter which are a separate work from the sports event. Concerning this, in Italy there is a specific regulation (D.Lgs. 9 January 2008 n. 9) that gives the organizers of the events and the competition the co-ownership of the audio-video rights. So there are rights which are unique in their characteristics that cannot be denied. The Milan Court seems to recognize an out-and-out copyright protection where it states that «although soccer matches are not to be considered intellectual property, the broadcast of such events (…) in case they represent a specific technical and creative contribution, they can be considered protected works.»

After the copyright protection has been recognized, the Milan Court had no hesitation in applying the art. 171, paragraph 1, letter a-bis according to the Italian Copyright Law that punishes who makes protected intellectual property, or part of it, available to the public via electronic means. It’s a much-criticized law both because it punishes those who often aren’t the ones who committed the offense and regardless of its profit/non-profit nature.