Sky TV takes action against NZME, TVNZ and Fairfax over rugby clips

Aerial photograph of Eden Park Auckland. Sky is taking action against TVNZ, Fairfax and NZME alleging they breached copyright in their rugby footage. Photo / File
Aerial photograph of Eden Park Auckland. Sky is taking action against TVNZ, Fairfax and NZME alleging they breached copyright in their rugby footage. Photo / File

Sky has filed High Court action against TVNZ, Fairfax and NZME alleging the media companies breached the pay TV firm's copyright in their use of rugby video footage.

The case follows the unsuccessful injunction against Fairfax for use of Olympic footage and a failed Press Council complaint on the reporting of the wrangle over video from the Rio Games.

TVNZ brought the proceedings to light in a submission to the Commerce Commission on the proposed merger between Vodafone and Sky where they argued that the pay TV company was limiting New Zealander's access to news.

"Sky's conduct represents an attempt by Sky to leverage its monopoly over premium content, in order to effectively foreclose the ability New Zealanders to access sports news - unless they are prepared to pay a premium subscription to Sky in exchange for such access," TVNZ said in the submission.

NZME publishes The New Zealand Herald and the company's managing editor Shayne Currie said the proceedings add to a growing list of defendants in copyright litigation from Sky.

"As a news media organisation NZME is committed to covering news of national significance for the benefit of all New Zealanders whether they can afford a Sky subscription or not," he said.

"NZME will therefore vigorously defend the Sky action."

Currie said the move shows Sky attempting to extend their "domination" of sports coverage in New Zealand by limiting how news media can report the news.

"The Copyright Act preserves the right of the news media to cover the news through "fair dealing" provisions," he said.

Sinead Boucher, Fairfax executive editor, said the proceedings were an "aggressive move," and that Fairfax would also defend their position strongly if the matter appears before court.

"We believe we are acting fairly and within the law when we use footage," she said.

TVNZ cheif executive Kevin Kenrick said the legal proceedings are the latest attempt from the Sky corporate box "to dictate what is newsworthy and how sports news should be covered in New Zealand."

"As a sports content rights holder ourselves, we understand and wholeheartedly support rights holders being able to generate a return on their investment. What we don't support is rights holders restricting New Zealanders' access to legitimate news stories in a timely manner. New Zealand's copyright law permits the 'fair use' of footage to report on current events. There's a big difference between short duration video clips being used for news coverage and illegal live streaming of entire matches," Kenrick said.

Currie, Kenrick and Boucher all said they hope the matter can be worked out before it goes to court.

"NZME believes rather than litigation, an industry fair dealing agreement is the better solution to address use of sports video coverage in reporting the news," Currie said.

Sky spokesperson Kirsty Way alleged the use of footage went beyond "fair dealing".

"Very substantial, and in our view totally unacceptable amounts of SKY footage are, at times, being used in news programmes. For example sometimes up to 10 minutes in a 45 minute programme," Way said.

"Sky has paid very substantial amounts to win rugby rights in a competitive process, on an even playing field with TVNZ and other media outlets."

"Sky accepts and embraces the statutory recognition of fair dealing for reporting current events, we simply do not accept that fair dealing allows our investment in rights to be devalued."

Way said the submission from TVNZ has "little, if any," relevance to the proposed merger between Sky and Vodafone.

"Like we've said all along, we would like the High Court to rule on what constitutes fair dealing in the current environment," she said.

Way also said that Sky not being awarded the interim injunction over Fairfax's use of Olympic footage was the first step in a process and that Sky are now heading to court "for a less time sensitive ruling."

- NZ Herald

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