A guide to rights protection at major sporting events: part 3 – be ready for surprises and maintain perspective

Published 16 September 2014 By: Nandan Kamath, Roshan Gopalakrishna, Nihal Zachariah

Rio 2016 Aquatics Centre

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this three part guide, Nandan Kamath, Roshan Gopalakrishna and Nihal Zachariah introduced rights protection programmes and looked at the first five steps: identifying core rights, contracting early with key parties, educating the public, actively monitoring for breaches, and developing intelligent enforcement strategies.

In the final part of this guide, the authors look at steps 6 and 7: being ready for surprises, and having a sense of humour.


Step 6 – Be ready for surprises

Those wishing to ambush events are often innovative and strategic and aim to exploit limitations and weaknesses in law and enforcement structures. Event owners must be constantly prepared for new and unusual ambushing tactics by exercising constant vigilance and not letting the guard down.

A flexible approach

In the course of an event, issues may arise from otherwise unforeseen spaces. In tackling such surprises, a flexible approach and a lucid framework of principles go a long way in combating the impact of such threats speedily and effectively. In the absence of these, the event owner may be like a deer in the headlights when a new ambush method arises.

For example, one of the challenges that emerged during the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 was related to the use and commercialisation of event match footage by Indian television news channels. Though the ICC had issued News Access Regulations on the matter, nothing could have prepared the ICC for the manner in which match footage used by the channels (purportedly in the guise of journalistic fair dealing) was being displayed and commercialised with sponsorships and branded packaging, giving unassociated third parties an opportunity to directly associate with match content and indirectly with the tournament.

To make matters worse, a number of these third parties were direct competitors of official partners. Monitoring of the news broadcasts indicated the seriousness of the issue, legal process was begun (including withdrawal of accreditations and issue of cease and desist notices). When these did not have the desired result, the ICC was compelled to file a suit in the Delhi High Court against one of the major broadcasters in an attempt to establish the legal precedent.1

The Court upheld the restrictions in the Regulations, and further held that the news broadcaster could not use the name, image and logo of any advertiser in special sports news programmes carrying match footage. Such use of footage would not only mislead the audience but also give them an impression of the advertiser being a sponsor of or associated with the event, as this would be inconsistent with the idea of fair dealing. This view was reaffirmed by a Division Bench of the Delhi High Court on appeal.2

That these types of infringements would have been so ubiquitous would have been difficult to predict at the start of the event, but through legal process a new standard had been created and a grey area in the law had been conclusively determined, thereby closing off an area of apparent weakness.

Adapting to evolving social media

More recently, the short-form video sharing service, Vine, had its moment of controversy during the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil. While the lengths of the Vine videos are generally short (no more than ~6 seconds), there were instances in which users reproduced material audio-visual content that directly impacted the value of the official broadcaster’s exclusive rights. Key goals and other moment were made available as Vines on social media websites such as Twitter soon after these events occurred live. FIFA and its broadcast partners responded by issuing takedown notices and getting certain Vine accounts suspended.3


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Nandan Kamath

Nandan Kamath

Nandan is Principal Lawyer at LawNK, based in Bangalore, India. His practice specialises in sports, technology and media laws, with clients ranging from international and national sports federations, to leagues, teams, sponsors and athletes.
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Roshan Gopalakrishna

Roshan Gopalakrishna

Roshan is Counsel (Sports & Entertainment) at LawNK, a Bangalore based niche law practice specializing in sports, intellectual property, media and information technology laws. In addition, Roshan is also the Chief Legal Counsel at Copyright Integrity International, a world leader in the protection of digital and broadcast rights. Roshan is a graduate of the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

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Nihal Zachariah

Nihal Zachariah

Nihal is an Associate at LawNK, a Bangalore based niche law practice specializing in sports, intellectual property, media and information technology laws. He graduated from Gujarat National Law University in May 2013 and has gained experience in the areas of rights protection assistance and commercial contractual drafting for a range of the firm’s clients, in the sports industry and outside.

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