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Thursday, 14 December, 2000, 20:08 GMT
Fan websites caught in the net
Fergy and Trophy PA
Sir Alex Ferguson and the Premier League trophy
By BBC News Online internet reporter Mark Ward

Websites run by football fans are falling foul of the FA Premier League.

The League is threatening legal action against sites that publish lists of football fixtures without paying for them. The League claims copyright on the list which show who will play whom.

But its action clashes with a crackdown by the Football League which is only targeting commercial websites who are breaching the copyright on fixtures.

Fans are now calling on the organisations to sort themselves out and clarify just what information people can and cannot use.

Legal letters

Last week, many of the football fans who run websites dedicated to their favourite club were contacted by the FA Premier League threatening legal action over their use of fixture lists.

The FA Premier League says it will begin legal proceedings unless the fan sites remove the fixture lists and give a written undertaking that they will not reinstate them without buying a licence.

It also threatens to inform whoever is hosting the page about the infringement and ask them to block the site.

The FA Premier League regards the list of who is playing whom and when as its intellectual property and charges newspapers, magazines, pools companies, and sports websites for use of the information.

Currently, reproducing the list costs 250 for fixtures for individual teams and 4,000 for the whole list.

"It's not really fair that some people pay and some people don't," said a spokesman for the FA Premier League.

The spokesman could not say what further action would be taken against sites that did not comply with its request to remove fixture lists.

Fan fury

The action by the Premier League has annoyed fans who claim the information is in the public domain and that they cannot see what damage they are doing by re-publishing fixture information.

One fan website branded the action "stupid" and said it would only generate bad publicity for the FA Premier League organisation.

Other fans are taking a more proactive approach. One Arsenal fansite has generated a list of all possible fixtures for the 2001/2 season, and says it will charge the Premier League for using its list.

Mark Terry from Rivals.net, that amalgamates lots of football club fan sites, said the action was only going to alienate supporters.

"They have a lot to learn about new media, where it is going and how to serve the fan," he said.

The FA Premier League is going much further than the Football League which is also trying to stop commercial sports websites using the fixture list when they have not paid for it.

"Our principal concerns are those companies that are large commercial enterprises who are setting up football-based portals and using property that is copyrighted," said a spokesman for the Football League adding that it would take action against abuse of its copyright wherever it took place.

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