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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ethics?

 Violators II shall be added to the special list (“FIDE Blacklist”) for the period to be determined by the FIDE Ethics Commission on the basis of the severity of violation. Such period in any case shall not exceed 10 (ten) years.
 
     Last year a US federal court ruled that “robust reporting” of chess moves during play is in the public interest. The ruling explained why the attempt by World Chess (Agon) to stop chess24 and Chessgames from broadcasting the moves of the Carlsen-Karjakin World Chess Championship had been denied. The long-established understanding in the chess world that chess moves can’t be copyrighted was therefore in both a US and a Russian court.
     Who/what is Agon? Agon is a sports event promoting company founded in 2012 in New Jersey by Andrew Paulson as the sole shareholder. On February 20, 2012, an agreement between Agon and FIDE was made, running from 2012 to at least 2021 for the management of the World Chess Championship and associated events, subject to approval by the 2012 FIDE General Assembly. This approval was forthcoming in September 2012. In October 2014, Agon was sold to its current CEO Ilya Merenzon for the sum of one pound. The goal was to make chess a commercial success. For Merenzon's opinion/reasoning on the matter, you can read it HERE.
     In his decision the judge ruled that chess24 was not “pirating,” but creating its own content “at great expense.”  The ruling meant that Agon had failed to show it was likely to win the case if it went to trial. The judge also discussed legal precedents, explaining that the NBA vs. Motorola “Hot News” case that Agon cited was actually lost by the NBA with the court upholding the right of other companies to build products around sports statistics. He explained, “...the Court is not persuaded that World Chess alone can report on the Championship game scores. Indeed, it is well-established that sports scores and events, like players' moves in the Championship, are facts not protectable by copyright."
     In the NBA vs. Motorola case it was determoned that sports data used in a fantasy baseball league was readily available in the public domain. Basic factual information about chess moves is no different from any other factual information generated from a sports match or other public event and thus cannot be protected under copyright law.
     The reasoning is chess moves are not protected by United States copyright law because, like sports scores and statistics, the moves that a player makes during a game are not creative works of authorship. Chess players may disagree, but the law takes a different view.  Sports events are not ‘authored’ in any common sense of the word. There is considerable preparation for a game, however the preparation is as much an expression of hope or faith as a determination of what will actually happen. Unlike movies, plays, television programs, or operas, athletic events are competitive and have no underlying script. Preparation may even cause mistakes to succeed and athletic events may result in unanticipated occurrences.  Sounds like chess games when you look at it that way.

     Agon has lost every legal case, so now they have developed a live moves policy on broadcasting in an effort to impose a ban on reporting chess moves using FIDE "ethics" as its basis. FIDE and ethics are definitely not words one would expect to see used together in the same sentence.

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