According to a European Union Court of Justice decision, soccer schedules are not copyrightable under European Union Intellectual Property laws. The United Kingdom's soccer leagues had claimed that Yahoo's British subsidiary and other parties violated intellectual property rights when they used the league's schedules without permission. Presumably, in the case of Yahoo, the company reprinted a copy of the soccer schedule on its website, so that fans would know when to tune in to their team's match.

The Court, however, ruled that the schedules were not entitled to copyright protection, stating that, "The significant labor and skill required for setting up that database cannot as such justify such a protection if they do not express any originality in the selection or arrangement of the data which that database contains." (As an aside, a representative example of a copyright available for data arrangement, might be in the numbers 01 00 10, etc. which are used in software coding. )

It's interesting because the league is entitled to protection for its intellectual property, and without copyright protection, it literally gets nothing for not only the arrangement of the document in the first place, but from the news agencies and others which subsequently reproduce the document and potentially profit from advertisers' sales associated with viewers searching for the content on their sites.

Intellectual Property Inspiration

The point of intellectual property protections is to encourage people to invent and create things without fearing that once their creations enter into the public domain, they will immediately lose the ability to capture potential profits. Thus, protections such as patents and copyrights allow those parties a finite period of protection under which they hold monopoly rights on their creations. Under American law, these protections include an absolute prohibition against copying, making, selling, or otherwise using or profiting from the patented or copyrighted material.

In order to be entitled to these protections, however, the creation must meet certain threshold tests, such as the creative requirement, discussed above. This is required in order to ensure that the monopolistic protections aren't being granted for trivial or insignificant things (eventhough these sometimes manage to slip through anyway). While the requirements are typically defined in statutes, case law usually fills in the gaps to determine what exactly terms like "creative" mean. For example, subsequent to this ruling, lists or other arrangements of data which are similar to soccer schedules, can be put into the category of things not creative enough to garner copyright protection in the EU.