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Legal Cases (Chessbase and Karpov)

Potential legal cases

Two potential legal cases may or may not reach courts in the near future. The organisers of the World Championship in Sofia are said to be taking action against ChessBase on the strictly limited idea that you can't dynamically take content from a website and sell it for profit.

The next is that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is planning to take Anatoly Karpov to the FIDE Ethics Commission over saying he was corrupt. Well I don't know the rules of this commission but I highly doubt Karpov will be scared. The article also says he is taking it to court in Russia, whilst Karpov may be on trial Ilyumzhinov will also have to take the stand and I highly doubt he would enjoy that very much. Looks like a completely empty threat on his behalf.

The first was first flagged up by where the Bulgarian organisers of the World Championships are taking action against ChessBase for their live broadcast of the World Championship Match between Anand and Topalov. In an excellent article on the lawyers taking the case reveal that it isn't really about chess game copyright. Chessvibes quotes the lawyer Rainer Polzin.

"The case has been filed at a court in Berlin [Landgericht - CV]. The action is partly based on the German Copyright Law, which is based in the protection of databases mainly to European directives. The EU directive (EU Directive) 96/9/EC of 11 March 1996 will play an important role.

Further claims from the Competition Law will be invoked. It is essentially a question of whether the live acquisition of content from a website, which is funded by sponsors, put onto another website, with the intention of generating profits, is admissible.

There have been some cases in Germany on broadcasting rights of football matches. But there it’s clear what is copyrighted: photos, moving pictures and radio reports. The problem for the clubs is when reporters without prior permission for sale, after buying a ticket, make photos or videos. These are fascinating cases. But it’s not comparable with our case, as ChessBase had no reporters in Sofia."

So it is about live aquisition of content rather than game copyright. This seems to indicate that the legal opinion long held that they can't be copyrighted is pretty much recognised as not being a useful path to go down.

The organisers offered live coverage for about € 15,000 which looks like a prohibitive amount. The article basically says they were more confident of European Law than US Law. The situation where certain things are prohibited in Europe but widely available elsewhere will produce additional confusion. I'm guessing if you sourced moves from a website that wasn't the official site and could prove that, it might even get round the grounds for action above.

On TWIC I delayed the update of the moves by around half an hour, and this turned out to be longer in some cases. Although I have a page called a live page it is more designed to be a place drop into visit and see what's going on rather than a place to follow a game live (and I always provide links to the official places to go) but "frequent updates page" doesn't really cut it as a label. It is as much about saving me having to sit around for hours updating the website by hand. I've really no interest in taking hits away from official sites who within reason should be able to exploit their hosting of tournaments. However the grounds for protecting move broadcasts within law may not be there.

I personally followed the games of the World Championship on my big screen TV with ICC commentary connected to it via one of my laptops and the official site video also on screen. Watching the official site video was pretty essential to reporting on the event. Mostly the US Championship happened a bit late at night for me but I followed the playoff game on the official site. Again no-one could do better than they did by simply having the moves. I also watched the ACP Rapid live videos. The future of watching major chess events will be a fully multi-media experience and I guess that organisers will have a pretty easy time protecting that.

There may be something of interest emerges in the case between ChessBase and the organisers of the World Championship but I can't see the provable damages being very high and whilst not a legal expert I wonder if it will really reach a full court case given the number of outlets for the moves from the match.

The second case is perhaps more interesting. The Russian Press is reporting that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is about to sue his opponent Anatoly Karpov for libel. Well except he says it says that he is taking Karpov to the FIDE Commission of Ethics, which I can entirely believe but hardly sounds scary for Karpov.

My understanding is that Ilyumzhinov is accusing Karpov of specifically saying that money is laundered through FIDE. I don't even know whether Karpov said this or whether he limited himself to saying that Ilyumzhinov or FIDE is corrupt in a more general way.

Ilyumzhinov mentions taking a case to a Russian court too, presumably a much more strict arena. Well, I'm sure Russian libel laws are different from the UK, but I'm pretty sure the prospect of Ilyumzhinov having to talk about the huge number of issues people have about him under oath will mean that he will think better of it pretty quickly. Indeed I think we would all like to see Ilyumzhinov take the stand in a court and answer questions as to where his money comes from and about his governance of Kalmykia (including a murder of a journalist by one of his close advisors), and also payments to FIDE delegates for votes would have to come up, all these issues would be entirely relevant in such a case. My prediction? Not going to happen.

Ilyumzhinov quotes from the above article:

I am for their 20-year activity as a political public figure has ever been in court. Now, I asked, together with members of the Presidential Board of FIDE in the ethics commission, headed by the representative of Italy in the FIDE for libel by Karpov, as well as in court. And the gentleman player, ex-champion, must submit to the Commission on the Ethics of FIDE facts of corruption in FIDE. Or face the punishment.

It is a collective address of members of the Presidential Council and members of the FIDE ethics commission of the FIDE. And in the Moscow court in the place of residence of the chess player. And in the international court at the place of registration of FIDE. Why is requested? Because the statements in this chess defame an international organization FIDE.

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