The East Anglian Daily Times could face Football League rap after it broke a strict embargo this morning, revealing the club`s first fixture of the season online well before 10 AM.
Colchester United face Norwich City away when the 2009/10 season begins in August, leaked by the paper’s website around two hours before official scheduled release.
Under strict commercial constraints placed on the fixtures, worked out under wraps for more than a year in advance by a 14-person-strong team, it is illegal to publish the information before the agreed time and date.
The fixtures, whose copyright belongs to a company called Dataco, are priced at up to £500 plus VAT per list per site, according to a 2002 report from the football magazine, When Saturday Comes.
The Press clearly had access to that information early, as the Colchester Gazette report on the opening fixtures appeared online at just shortly after 10` o clock, which was itself permissible.
The Vital Football network, and other sister fanzine sites, are unable to publish full fixture lists without paying thousands of pounds in advance, a fact that network creator and Aston Villa fan Jonathon Fear has been campaigning against for a number of years.
His argument against Football League embargos is that publication should be impossible to copyright, because it is in essence public information. He also believes that publishing full dates and times should be in fact allowed because it is essentially advertising the game.
A football fixture qualifies as a literary work and so, the Football League have deemed, falls under the same conditions as other materials like music, which take some form of effort and to create. It must pass the simple test of being an original piece of information to qualify. So, technically premature publication of that information contravenes the Copyright Designs & Patents Act, 1988.
The East Anglian Daily Times may be able to escape any reprimand if it draws on fair usage terms of the copyright Act, which say reporting current events, such as highly newsworthy opening fixture, are exempt from copyright.
Facts, in general, are free from such restrictions and the website has not removed the small report that broke the first fixture. The breach however also allowed the infomation to be reported on a Sweedish Colchester United fanzine.
As revealed by the BBC on Monday, through an investigatory web log, a League Fixtures Working Party devises all English fixtures each year. Glenn Thompson computes them all on a laptop computer and has done since 1993.
To read about why Colchester are so often not given a home fixture to start the season, click here.
Are the Football League right to be so strict on fixture publication?
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