Sports rights battle flares

Sports rights battle flaresNew Zealand's Cory Jane beats off challenges from Rocky Epsom (left) and Digby Ioane in a match against Australia in 2011.

Another legal battle over how news media companies use video content to cover sport has erupted in New Zealand.

Pay TV network Sky has initiated High Court proceedings against Fairfax NZ, NZME and broadcaster TVNZ for distributing video highlights of its rugby coverage on their websites.

Fairfax previously successfully fought a similar legal matter brought by Sky relating to its Olympics coverage.

Group executive editor Sinead Boucher said Fairfax was disappointed Sky continued “to act aggressively over news media’s use of fair dealing video rights”.

“We will defend our position strongly should it come to court but would hope a practical resolution can be reached,” she said.

The publishers and broadcaster say they have used so-called fair dealings provisions that allow use of copyrighted material for news reporting.

The provisions are ambiguous and their interpretation can cause concern for exclusive rights holders.

A Sky spokesperson told Fairfax’s top-rated website Stuff.co.nz that the company embraced fair dealings but did not accept the provisions “allows our investment in rights to be devalued”.

NZME managing director Shayne Currie said an industry fair dealings agreement would be a better solution than litigation.

“Sky is attempting to extend its domination of sports coverage by limiting how the news media … can report the news,” Mr Currie said.

“NZME believes Sky, in attempting to unduly restrict access to video coverage of news in the national interest, is being unreasonable and unrealistic, particularly given the era news media we now operate in.”

The legal action comes as the New Zealand Commerce Commission evaluates a proposed merger between Sky and telco Vodafone.

TVNZ said in a submission to the commission that Sky’s legal action “represents an attempt by Sky to leverage its monopoly over premium content in order to effectively foreclose the ability of New Zealanders to access sports news – unless they are prepared to pay a premium subscription to Sky”.

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