Football League Limited v Littlewoods Pools: ChD 1959

The plaintiff alleged copyright infringement by the defendant in the reproduction of its football fixture lists. The defendant argued that the work which went into deciding when and where the fixtures were to take place was not relevant: the only relevant skill and labour being that involved in reducing that information to material form.
Held: To assess the extent of skill labour and judgment going into a compilation for the 1956 Act, the court must allow for the whole history, including any work done to bring the data into existence in the first place. Copyright therefore subsisted in football fixture lists as a literary work and compilation. Importance was attached to the reproduction of not only the information, but also its arrangement, and to the fact that essentially the whole of the work in suit had been reproduced.
Upjohn J said: ‘Copyright for such a compilation can be claimed successfully if it be shown that some labour, skill, judgement or ingenuity has been brought to bear upon the compilation. The amount of labour, skill, judgement or ingenuity required to support successfully a claim for copyright is a question of fact and degree in every case.’ and ‘Mr Shelley . . submits, and I agree with him, that it is clearly settled law that there can be no copyright in information or in an opinion per se. Copyright can only be claimed in the composition or language which is chosen to express the information or the opinion.’ He rejected the argument that the skill and labour expended was directed to the creation of the programme, and not its recording in permanent form, saying: ‘In my judgement, on the facts of this case, it is not open to the defendants to try and dissect and break down the efforts of Sutcliffe in the way suggested. Accordingly in my judgment the plaintiffs are entitled to copyright in the chronological list.’


Upjohn J


[1959] 1 Ch 637, [1959] 2 All ER 546


Copyright Act 1956


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedFootball Dataco Ltd and Others v Brittens Pools Ltd (In Action 3222) and Others ChD 23-Apr-2010
The court considered what rights existed in the annual football fixture lists created by the claimants. The claimants said that the list was created only with a considerable effort applying certain rules. The defendants denied that any copyright . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Intellectual Property

Updated: 27 September 2022; Ref: scu.408855