LONDON (Reuters) - A European Court has backed online company Yahoo! Inc's contention that it should not pay the compilers for publishing English and Scottish football fixtures lists.
Football DataCo, a company that protects and markets images and data for the English and Scottish Premier Leagues, had accused Yahoo! UK, bookmaker Stan James and sports information company Enetpulse of infringing its rights by using match lists without authorisation.
The fees for publishing the fixtures online and in newspapers are distributed among professional clubs in England and Scotland.
In a judgment on Thursday, the European Union's Court of Justice in Luxembourg said copyright protection did not extend to fixture lists when there was little creative freedom in how they are compiled.
"The court basically came out on the side of Yahoo!, stating that football fixture lists could not be protected by copyright," said Geert Glas, an intellectual property rights lawyer at Allen & Overy in Brussels.
"The underlying reason is that while drawing up such a list requires considerable effort and skill, it does not leave a lot of room for originality, which is the key requirement for copyright protection," he added.
However, Football DataCo said it planned to fight on and still saw scope for winning a copyright case in Britain based on the EU ruling.
"We are confident that the UK Court of Appeal will uphold the database protection for the English and Scottish football leagues' fixtures, which provide much needed revenue at all levels of the professional game," it said in a statement.
Yahoo! took the opposite view, saying the judgment vindicated its position in the long-running dispute. The case will now return to the British legal system.
"Yahoo! now looks forward to the Court of Appeal hearing, where the Court of Justice's rulings are applied so that the Football Leagues' claims to a de facto monopoly over this information can finally being put to rest," it said.
Reporting by Keith Weir in London and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels; Editing by Will Waterman