Duncan Bucknell (IP ThinkTank)’s Global Week in Review recently highlighted this post on the IP Factor blog which raises some rather entertaining questions pertaining to copyrights. Apparently, the Bulgarian Chess Federation banned ChessBase, among the world’s best chess websites, from broadcasting a game live, citing copyright infringement…
Essentially, as games from top tournaments are played, several websites broadcast the moves – either on an online chessboard, or in written form (for instance, 1. e4 e5. 2. Nf3 Nc6 – the “algebraic” notation widely used for noting chess games). The Bulgarian Chess Federation sought to stop other websites from broadcasting moves live. This raises several issues:
- Are the moves of a chess game the subject-matter of copyright?
- In case they are, who does this copyright belong to? The players of the game or the organizers?
- Would “live” broadcasts of chess games impair any intellectual property of the organizers?
- Often, professional chess players prepare “novelties” (moves not played before) in their home preparation. Do they have copyright over the “novelties”? For instance, in chess openings analysed deeply, players will know the “theory” several moves deep. They will deviate from “theory” with a deeply-prepared “novelty” – can they claim copyright over their novelty?
- If they do have copyright over the moves, would the use of those novelties in other games by other players be fair use?
The reputed chess historian, Edward Winter, has written this piece on the history of copyright in chess. The Toronto Star carried a report on the specific controversy here, and another report is available and here. All in all, this seems at first glance to be an instance of intellectual property taken way too far… What do our readers think?