PSL fights Gidani in court

2013-11-17 14:01

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Soccer body accuses lottery over copyright infringement.

The courtroom has become the pitch in a legal battle between the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and National Lottery distributor? Gidani.

The league is accusing Gidani of unlawfully using its product to generate millions in revenue, money that the PSL believes it is entitled to.

The professional soccer body is arguing before the South Gauteng High Court that Gidani is infringing its copyright by including its fixtures in SportStake – a football betting game.

Roger Wakefield, a director at Werksmans Attorneys, which represents the league, said the firm wanted Judge Frans Kgomo to declare that the copyright exists in the PSL fixture lists and to stop Gidani from using it without the league’s permission.

“All we are saying is that [the] PSL fixture list is copyright protected and vests in the league,” said Wakefield.

He further said they could not quantify how much their claim was as they split the case.

“The important aspect of the case is for the court to declare the copyright protection and the damage aspect will come later once the court had determined the merit. Obviously through the SportStake they have been generating millions of which royalties should normally benefit football in South Africa.”

The case has been going on for 18 months.

Wakefield, however, confirmed that the PSL had an agreement with Gidani’s predecessor Uthingo, which was paying royalties for the usage of the fixtures, but Gidani refused to honour the deal.

Last year, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that soccer leagues may not be able to claim copyright protection for matches’ schedules.

But Wakefield said the South African football landscape was different from the European one, as football was only developing now and it was important that the money filters down towards development.

“We can’t use the recent European court ruling’s argument here because we have never been bound by European legislation.”

On Friday, Ronnie Schloss, the former PSL chief operating officer, took to the stand as he tried to clarify how the fixtures list was created.

Advocate Dawid Muller, the head of legal, compliance and regulatory affairs at Gidani, assured SportStake players that they were doing their best to defend their favourite Lottery game.

“Gidani has always rejected, and continues to vehemently refute the PSL’s claims. We are confident that our stand is well-founded and our case is sustainable,” said Muller in a statement.

He continued: “Gidani confirms that it has been seized with the subject of contention since 2007 when it started operating the National Lottery when PSL claimed copyright, alleging that Gidani is infringing their purported copyright in the annual and weekly PSL soccer fixture lists as it at times included some of these in the National Lottery game known as SportStake.

“SportStake is part of the current National Lottery bouquet of games. It is a game in which a listing of 12 fixtures is published in the order of home team versus visiting team. For each of these fixtures, a player must select a home win, a draw or an away win. To compile the listing, Gidani utilises fixtures from the Spanish, Italian, Brazilian, South African, English, [and] other leagues and international fixtures.”

The case is expected to be finalised on Tuesday.

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