Faced with legal threats, C3 stops airing World Cup games

The telecommunications company C3 has stopped airing World Cup games after a brief legal dispute with Logic, the company that owns the exclusive rights to broadcast the tournament in Cayman.

C3 allegedly aired the first game of the World Cup on June 14 – Russia’s 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia – on one of its channels, CTV, according to a July 4 lawsuit filed by Logic against C3, which has since been withdrawn.

Logic wrote C3 on that day, requesting that the company cease and desist its broadcast of the World Cup. C3 replied shortly thereafter, indicating that it would cease its infringement of Logic’s copyrights, states the lawsuit.

Nevertheless, C3 continued to air World Cup games on another channel, Fox, and aired the majority of the 57 games that had taken place by July 4, according to Logic’s lawsuit, which was obtained from the financial services site OffshoreAlert.

Logic’s lawsuit sought a Grand Court order restraining C3 from broadcasting more World Cup games, as well as damages from C3’s alleged copyright violation.

However, Logic CEO Rob McNabb told the Compass on Monday that his company withdrew its lawsuit after C3 agreed to stop broadcasting games. C3, for its part, confirmed that it has stopped airing World Cup games, but stated that it is “disappointed” by a lack of regulatory action against what it described as anti-competitive behavior taking place in the telecoms industry.

C3 filed a complaint with the telecoms regulator, OfReg, on June 18, alleging that Logic and Flow have been engaging in anti-competitive behavior – the two companies struck a deal with cable television rival Flow to allow it to carry coverage of the tournament, leaving C3 out of the mix.

“Under Clause 14 (Anti-Competitive Practices: Agreement) if two Licensees enter into an agreement which has as its ‘objective or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition relating to any ICT service or ICT network subject to this law,’ it is prohibited,” C3 stated in its complaint. “Accordingly, the agreement between Logic and Flow regarding the World Cup is a prohibited agreement.”

However, OfReg has not made a decision on the complaint, said C3 owner Randy Merren.

“Here we are with the World Cup final about five days away, and we still haven’t received any decision,” he said.

Logic’s exclusive rights to the World Cup – it obtained a sublicense from DirectTV, which has an exclusive license to broadcast the games in the Latin American region – has been an issue of debate since it was made public in March, when MLA Chris Saunders raised concerns about it in the Legislative Assembly.

Mr. Merren also said in March that he was disappointed not to be able to broadcast the tournament, which he believes should be universally available.

“This is the World Cup and the idea is that everybody should be able to see the beautiful game for free. You sell advertising around it and get your revenue that way,” he said at the time. “If we had the rights, we could broadcast it on Cayman27 and Island 24 and every customer of Logic or Flow would be able to access the content. That won’t be the case here.

“They are trying to leverage the World Cup to drive subscribers to their cable system.”

Other countries mandate that events like the World Cup are preserved for all. In the U.K., for example, the British government won a legal battle with FIFA to allow it to mandate that all 64 games of the tournament be maintained as free-to-air.

But Cayman’s telecoms regulator, OfReg, has indicated that it does not get involved in the contractual or commercial deals of its licensees.

Logic has also struck a deal with cable television rival Flow to allow it to carry coverage of the tournament. The two companies appear to have traded broadcast rights in an agreement that will mean Logic can carry increased coverage of the English Premier League next season.

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