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Australian sports get busy with copyright special pleading

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Australia’s sports administrators, usually busy trying to steal each others’ audiences, have discovered the spirit of cooperation in the face of the Optus TV Now Federal Court decision.

The prime minister has confirmed that the Australian Rugby League, Australian Football League, Cricket Australia, Tennis Australia, and the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports have lobbied the government for a change to the Copyright Act.

At issue is the future value of exclusive broadcast rights – particularly sports’ ability to attract carriers willing to pay for mobile distribution – if the TV Now decision stands.

According to ABC radio, the government is seeking "urgent legal advice" regarding whether the legislation should be changed.

Last week, the Federal Court decided that the “cloud PVR”-style service from Optus did not infringe copyright, because the recordings were under the control of individuals, only used for time-shifting, and were not for distribution “to the public”.

Most immediately, the decision puts the value of Telstra’s $AU153 million deal to offer AFL (for non-Australians, “Aussie Rules”) matches over its mobile network in doubt. The ARL believes the decision puts at risk its next round of TV broadcast negotiations, with its current deals due to expire at the end of 2012.

Opposition leader-in-waiting communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull told a press conference today that the government should amend the Copyright Act without waiting for the outcome of the sports codes’ appeal to the High Court.

Readers can watch ARL chief David Gallup’s interview with Peter Wilkins of the ABC’s Grandstand program here. ®

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