Thursday, March 05, 2009

Another Copyright Debate

Just a couple of months after my post, "Macieja on Copyrighting Games", ChessVibes has once again provoked a lengthy discussion on the same old issue. It all began with this successful C&D action against ChessBase by the Bulgarian Chess Federation:

The German chess site „ChessBĐ°se” was forced to cease the live broadcasting of the games of the match between World Cup candidates Veselin Topalov and Gata Kamsky. Without permission from the Bulgarian Chess Federation (BCF) the Germans broadcast the first four games on the global network in spite of the warning published to that effect by the organizers on the official site of the match

To make this a little confusing, the Bulgarians took aim only at Chessbase without, apparently, being too bothered by ICC's or ChessDom's "rebroadcast" of the same event. Maybe we can assume some sort of side deal. Anyway, that detail aside, this latest discussion is interesting at least because it touches upon the rights of organisers. Let's look at this from their point of view.

If they're spending thousands of dollars to make the whole thing happen, presumably with sponsorship partners on board who themselves have injected funds into the event - then aren't the organisers entitled to a certain exclusivity for eyeballs? I think so.

To my mind, broadcasting an event as it happens is an entirely different thing to copyrighting games. It seems to me that the Bulgarians are merely asserting their right(s) to the former, not the latter.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps ICC and ChessDom consulted the organisers before the event, and were granted permission to broadcast it.

Unlike ChessBase, who obviously didn't consult the organisers.

Kevin Bonham said...

I have seen claims that chessbase were not the only source rebroadcasting without arranging permission, but that they were singled out because of bad feeling towards the site arising from the Kramnik-Topalov toilet fracas. Not sure whether these claims are true or not but just mentioning them to indicate another possibility.

Anonymous said...

Mr Bonham is correct - ICC had no deal with the organisers in Sofia but ICC were allowed to broadcast undisturbed. The Bulgarian organisers' action against what they sarcastically called KramBase was revenge for Elista, pure and simple.

Anonymous said...

Chessdom had no deal with the organizers. Furthermore, my Bulgarian visa was issued only three days after the match start, because the BCF took quite some time to respond to my request.

In Sofia I heard that the reason for legal action was Chessbase's practice to "hook up" their broadcast bots directly to the official website/or to the Dutch company that provides toma software. But I don't know how this exactly works, so it might be wrong.

I remember something similar happened during the 2007 ETCC on Crete, when Playchess had the moves posted even before the official website, probably thanks to the technical superiority. The Greek organizers also reacted strongly, but their main demand was inclusion of the tournament logo to the website.


Anonymous said...

I didn't know about your previous post on the subject, otherwise I would surely have included it! I think Macieja was struggling with pretty much the same issues as I was when I wrote my article, although his conclusions are different. The big difference with chess compared to, say, music or books, in my view, is that in chess, the HOW is not interesting - it's only the WHAT we're interested in. Nobody cares how Anand looked when he played some move, nor whether the pieces were white or off-white.
This is why I (unlike you) think there is actually no difference between the broadcast of a chess game and the right to copy it. But I admit it's a point that many commenters to my article haven't understood either, so perhaps my explanation was wrong :-)

Anonymous said...

I can see there might be an argument if a site is using some sort of automatic feed. However the basic point is that in principle the idea is unworkable.

All a site has to do is broadcast "a game between player A and player B", that just happens to be the same as another game occurring at the same time, and it would be impossible to make any legal case.

katar said...

There was no "action" and no "precedent", just a threatening letter. Being "close" to filing a lawsuit means nothing. Chessbase did this for PR or business reasons, not because they were legally required to. Apparently Chessbase did not want to step on any toes, perhaps out of respect for the sponsors-- they don't want to scare away sponsors for future matches. If Chessbase seriously thought they were legally required to cease & desist (ie, STOP), then they need an attorney b/c that is nonsense! However for PR reasons it's not good to make enemies with a national federation like BCF.