The EU’s involvement in sport-related media and intellectual property has wide-ranging implications for the economy and organisation of sport, a fact reflected in sections of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (notably under article 165) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
Although EU rules on the internal market and competition do not specifically target sport, they can have an important impact on the way sport events are broadcast or transmitted over networks.
Sport and, particularly, the way it is represented through the media is of great social and economic significance. In social terms, sport can impact on a range of issues from attitudes toward sports fans and professionals, to complex phenomena such as nationalism, racism and the propensity to violence.
The relationship between sport and the media is also of great economic significance, as attending or watching sporting events generates considerable turnover each year. The selling of media rights is the main source of income for professional sport (notably football) in Europe, while merchandising is another important revenue generator.
With regard to intellectual property rights, the European Court of Justice pronounced its ruling on the 'QC Leisure (also known as Murphy)' case in October 2011. The Court expressed a number of considerations on the nature of sport events, saying that sport events such as football matches cannot be considered intellectual creations or works and so cannot be protected by copyright.
However, the Court also pointed out that sport events have a unique and original character that can transform them into subject-matter worthy of protection. It is therefore up to Member States to consider whether to grant such protection in their domestic legal framework.
Also in 2011, the Commission adopted a wide-ranging strategy on intellectual property rights in following up on the proposed actions of the Digital Agenda, and a Green Paper on the online distribution of audiovisual works was published.
A study on sport organisers' rights was launched by the Commission in 2012.