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AFL wins sporting rights legal battle with Optus

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Telstra, the AFL and the NRL have won a legal appeal to prevent Optus from showing matches without paying for sporting rights.

The Federal Court overturned a ruling made in February in favour of Optus’s mobile ‘TV Now’ service.

The football codes are concerned Optus’ online service undermines the value of their broadcast rights, as it allows viewers to watch video streams of AFL and NRL matches on smartphones or computers only minutes after the live television broadcast goes to air.

In February, Federal Court Justice Steven Rares ruled the service did not breach the Copyright Act.

But in the appeal concluded today, lawyers for the NRL, AFL and Telstra successfully argued Optus facilitated the recordings for its own commercial interests.

In the ruling of the full bench today,  justices Arthur Emmett, Annabelle Bennett and Paul Finn said they disagreed with the first judgment.

“Optus could be said to be the maker in that the service it offered to, and did, supply a subscriber was to make available to that person a recording of the football match he or she selected,” the judges found.

“Because Optus was involved in the making of each recording, it could not invoke section 111 of the Copyright Act, which allows people to make copies of films, music and broadcasts as long as the recording is solely for private and domestic use.”

Telstra spokesman Craig Middleton said the ruling would provide certainty for investments in sporting rights.

“The judgment is vindication for the sporting bodies and the content providers,” Middleton told The Age.

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