09 November 2016

World Championship Bullying

Before the ink had dried on my previous post, World Championship Broadcasting, the news broke that Agon had lost an initial battle to restrict broadcasting the upcoming Carlsen - Karjakin title match. Let's start this post with statements by Chess24.com and by Agon.

• 2016-11-03: Chess24 win Moscow case, announce New York line-up (chess24.com)

We’ve kept very quiet about the controversy over broadcasting live moves from the Candidates Tournament, believing the chess public isn’t gullible and can see through PR bluster, while the best place to respond to legal threats is in court, if it comes to that.

It did, and earlier this year Turnir Pretendentov LLC (a company set up by Ilya Merenzon and a lawyer – the name is the Russian for Candidates Tournament), sued eLearning Ltd (a Gibraltar company owning chess24’s intellectual property) for 20 million roubles, or around 290,000 euros at current exchange rates. The claim alleged unfair competition based on disclosing trade secrets.

After one preliminary hearing in September the final hearing in the Commercial Court of the City of Moscow took place on 25 October, with the judge announcing his verdict at the end. He rejected chess24’s motion to cease proceedings based on the court lacking jurisdiction, but then went on to reject Agon’s claim in full.

• 2016-11-03: Statement in response to the First Circuit Court ruling (agonlimited.com)

We note the ruling by the First Circuit Court in Moscow in the case we brought against Chess24. We did not fully expect a judgement in our favour due to the complicated nature of the case and limited time the judge has to consider the case (the average time that a judge in the Moscow Arbitration Court can spend on one case is only 48 minutes). We believe that the court has not properly addressed the documents and arguments and has declined to consider some of them in breach of procedural requirements, all of which has greatly affected the decision.

We will appeal the verdict this month and continue to protect our rights as the commercial rights holder to the World Chess Championship. We remain confident of a favourable outcome on appeal.

In that 'Broadcasting' post I relied on a Chess.com article by Peter Doggers to explain the implications of the Agon position. A more recent article explains the latest legal maneuvering.

• 2016-11-04: Chess24 Wins Court Case; Agon To Appeal (chess.com)

The Commercial Court of the City of Moscow rejected AGON's claim that Chess24 was not allowed to transmit the moves of the Candidates' Tournament. Agon will appeal that decision.

End of story? Hardly.

• 2016-11-06: World Chess Championship officials sue to stop pirating of match (reuters.com)

Organizers of the World Chess Championship sued on Monday to block a trio of website operators from broadcasting chess moves at the November 11-30 match in New York, which is expected to draw millions of online viewers. The lawsuit, filed by World Chess U.S. Inc and World Chess Events Ltd in federal court in Manhattan, seeks to limit the operators from transmitting the moves from the 12-game contest between world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and challenger Sergey Karjakin of Russia.

With their constant bullying, Agon isn't making any friends in the chess world. Don't they realize that the sites they are attacking provide a necessary chess service, have legions of loyal chess fans, and are promoting chess successfully day after day? Something is seriously wrong with Agon's approach to professional chess.


Later: User Profile Chessgames.com (p.960), representing one of the targets of Agon's legal action:-

Nov-10-16 Richard Taylor: To see the World Championships alive (live streaming, I presume we can see the actual game here): is it necessary to pay $15 or whatever it is they want? Is there an alternative?

Nov-10-16 Chessgames.com: I was hesitating answer your question because it largely depended on the opinion of the Honorable Judge Victor Marrero. In a hearing which ended a little more than an hour ago in Manhattan, it was decided that the injunctive relief sought to prevent Chessgames and other sites from relaying the raw move data was unfounded. Virtually every claim was rejected, with the judge adding "I know this area of the law very well."

It is possible they will continue to press forward with a suit for perceived damages but they cannot prevent Chessgames nor any other website from relaying the move data.

So to answer your question: if you want to see the official World Chess video and commentary, and the "3D immersive experience", there is an app that starts at $15 available from the official site: https://worldchess.com/nyc2016/. Chessgames has no problem in their attempt to commercialize chess, and if a 3D virtual-reality chess experience is what you want, that's the place to get it.

End of legal action? Somehow I doubt it.

No comments: