Published on Mar 24, 2024

This article is aimed at the protection of copyright for the reproduction of sports events through audiovisual media and what is the process to acquire these rights in a legal and ethical manner.

Copyright protects artistic, literary, musical, software works, among others, that have been created by one or several people together. However, in an era where technology advances so rapidly, copyright legislation has had to include sports events.

Precisely, when a sports event is broadcasted through a platform, application, cable or television channel, these transmissions are protected by copyright, as they must include creative and original elements, such as commentator's remarks, graphics, replays, background music, players' images, among other characteristics that may be subject to copyright. Additionally, the production and editing of summaries or programs related to the event may also be subject to copyright protection.

Consequently, those who enjoy copyright are those who intervene in the creation of sports broadcasts. Copyright interveners range from collective management societies, sports rights companies, or even the sports leagues themselves. Their main function is to ensure that radio stations, television, or streaming platforms obtain the necessary licenses to broadcast sports events and that the copyright of all materials used in such broadcasts is respected.

These rights give the author or rights holder the exclusivity to reproduce, distribute, exhibit, and adapt the work for a certain period. This means copyright allows creators to control the use of their works.

There are also neighboring rights related to copyright. Neighboring rights protect the interests of those involved in the creation and dissemination of works, but those involved in these works are not the authors themselves. In this case, neighboring rights will cover the following:

  1. Performing artists (singers, musicians, dancers, actors, etc.).
  2. Producers of phonograms (for example, music production companies).
  3. Audiovisual media or broadcasters (Television, radio, music, or video streaming platforms).

These individuals or entities play a crucial role in the staging, recording, distribution, and transmission of works protected by copyright in which they seek fair compensation for their work and contribution.

To be precise, audiovisual media are radio, television, podcast companies, applications, or streaming platforms that can be accessed through any type of electronic systems or devices that transmit programs to the public.

In Honduras, the exclusive rights of audiovisual media are protected by the Copyright and Related Rights Law, which stipulates cases where audiovisual media can authorize or prohibit the following:

  1. Recordings
  2. Retransmissions
  3. Reproduction of recordings of their broadcasts without their consent, except:
    (a) When used for private use.
    (b) When used for reporting on current events.
    (c) When used for research purposes.

It is of utmost importance to consider that the reproduction of sports events through traditional media such as radio and television or digital media such as streaming platforms, podcasts, among others, must meet certain legal requirements and demands through a legal process regulated by a competent authority.

The regulation for the reproduction of sports events may vary according to the legislation of each country. In Honduras, the reproduction of sports through audiovisual media is regulated by the Telecommunications Sector Framework Law and the Industrial Property Law, among other regulations.

The National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) is the telecommunications regulatory body in Honduras. Its main function is to regulate and supervise the telecommunications sector to ensure fair competition, service quality, consumer protection, and compliance with laws and regulations related to telecommunications. For a natural or legal person to offer telecommunications services, they must be authorized by CONATEL.

To broadcast sports via audiovisual media, it is necessary to obtain permission from the rights holder of the sports events, thereby ensuring the protection of copyright and related rights. To do so, licensing agreements must be executed, wherein the owner of the sports event rights grants them to the applicant. These agreements typically involve discussions on terms and conditions, license duration, applicable jurisdictions, restrictions, agreed-upon pricing, and applicable transmission platforms, among other factors.

One element of these agreements is payment of royalties. Royalties are compensation payments made to creators for the utilization of their works. These payments can be determined based on a fixed percentage to be paid monthly or established as a predetermined amount for a specific duration. This is crucial as the revenue generated from broadcasting matches can account for up to 40% of the total income of a small team.

By reaching an agreement with streaming platforms, the transmission rights allow live or on-demand broadcast of matches. These copyrights in the sports field cover various areas. For example, streaming platforms acquire the exclusive right to broadcast live, paying the leagues for it. In addition, within that negotiation are the rights for the creation of replays, summaries, and other content related to the event.

Likewise, images and videos captured during sports events are protected by copyright, preventing their unauthorized use for commercial purposes. In the digital field, online platforms must also obtain rights to broadcast sports events on their websites or mobile applications.

It is essential to comply with the requirements of the copyright holders of sports events and with the regulations established by CONATEL to prevent piracy, which implies respecting the copyright of the contents transmitted and avoiding any illegal activity that may violate these rights. However, in Honduras there is a 51% piracy rate in the broadcasting of sporting events.

By following Honduran legislation, respect for intellectual property is promoted and measures are taken to guarantee an equitable and transparent environment in the sports entertainment industry.

One instance where agreements were made between parties to obtain broadcasting rights for soccer matches occurred in 2018. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) disclosed a deal with Facebook to livestream Champions League matches across Latin America from 2018 to 2021. This agreement encompassed the live airing of exclusive broadcast rights for 32 matches per season, including the final and the UEFA Super Cup. ​(World Intellectual Property Organization, 2019)​

Another similar case was when the National Football League (NFL) and the NEXT VR system, a company dedicated to live event broadcasting in virtual reality reached an agreement in the past to offer immersive virtual reality (VR) broadcast experiences of some NFL events and matches. This partnership allowed viewers to experience the games in a completely new way, immersing themselves in a three-dimensional visualization that made them feel as if they were in the stadium. ​(World Intellectual Property Organization, 2019)​

Similarly, the National Hockey League (NHL) had an agreement with the social media platform Snapchat where the latter will highlight the top 10 plays of the week in the NHL, as well as where Snapchat undertakes to create at least 15 edited stories per season using videos and photos from Snapchat users on the platform. ​(World Intellectual Property Organization, 2019)​

Within each case, agreements may differ in their specifications, including duration, applicable jurisdiction, and platforms used. These agreements must be negotiated based on a variety of factors, for example, if it is a television broadcast, if it involves new technologies such as virtual reality, if it is about summaries, news, among other aspects.

Overall, it can be said that the protection of copyright in audiovisual media for the reproduction of sports events requires a legal and ethical process. Initially, this entails obtaining a license from the copyright holder, permitting the broadcasting company to air the sports event as outlined in an agreement. Additionally, adherence to the standards set forth by Honduran legislation, overseen by CONATEL, and other relevant regulations is crucial.

​​World Intellectual Property Organization. (2019). Intellectual Property Rights: The Driving Force of World Sport. WIPO MAGAZINE, 4-27.

José Antonio Villeda. - Associate, Honduras.


The information provided by ARIAS® is presented for informational purposes only. This information is not legal advice and is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking advice from professional advisers.