RealTime IT News

Red Card for World Cup Highlights Site

Two Web sites that promised video highlights of select World Cup soccer games have been forced offline by a legal threat from KirchMedia, which owns exclusive broadcast rights to the wildly popular international tournament.

KirchMedia, which owns the exclusive worldwide television, Internet and radio broadcast rights to the World Cup, demanded the shutdown of the WorldCup-02.com and Coupe-dumonde.com sites after clips of early-round games were streamed.

In a letter to James Sandham, a self-professed fan who runs the sites for Nokamu Ltd., KirchMedia said it had various exclusive contractual arrangements in place with licensees around the world relating to the exploitation of (the World Cup broadcast) rights and demanded the streams be turned off.

"In the event that Nokamu Ltd. fails to comply fully with the above, (KirchMedia will) take all legal and technical steps, as it deems appropriate or as may be necessary, to prevent any further infringement and to protect its rights and those of its licensees," the German company warned.

The legal threat, a copy of which was seen by internetnews.com, said Nokamu's use of World Cup streaming video was "a clear infringement of KM's intellectual property rights and those of its authorized licensees to the World Cup."

"Such action by Nokamu Ltd. is causing material damage and harm to KM and its licensees including in relation to their respective business interests in connection with the legitimate exploitation of the World Cup," KirchMedia said, warning it would hold Nokamu fully liable for any and all damages, losses and claims resulting from the video streams.

However, in an e-mail interview, Sandham argued that sections of the UK Copyright Act (1988) "gives certain rights" when the use of video clips pertain to "news or current affairs."

"The World Cup is an event of considerable newsworthiness we thought it would be an ideal opportunity to run such a site. This particular section of law has been tested many times for TV and video images, but has so far not been tested for internet based video files," Sandham said.

As part of a partnership between Yahoo and soccer's governing body FIFA, video clips of games are being sold for $19.95 at a co-branded fifaworldcup.yahoo.com site, but Sandham said the creation of the two sites were meant to "object to the charging of content on the internet."

"The fact that FIFA wanted to charge $20 for their content, I find offensive. Their content is poorly defined, the videos are of shocking quality and I don't think they really understand what the public want from these kind of services," he argued.

"The issue of internet transmission of copyrighted video files is currently a hotly debated issue. This site exists because we believe that certain points in the law allow us to host this site," he added, noting the sites were non-profit "for the fans, by the fans."

While Sandham may be standing on shaky legal ground, soccer fans worldwide are clamoring for the return of his site, complaining about the shoddy nature of the Yahoo/FIFA premium offerings.

For starters, streams from the paid site only support Windows Media Player causing a minor uproar among fans that use Unix or RealPlayer software.