On 9th March, Agon, the company that holds the rights to the World Chess Championship cycle of events, and World Chess Events Ltd., nominated by Agon as the event organiser of the 2016 Candidates Tournament, sent to ChessBomb an official letter informing us that our site “...is not authorised to broadcast the moves of the games of the Candidates tournament”. The prohibition is stated to be in force for the duration of each game and two hours after its end!
While we acknowledge and respect the copyright of audio and video materials, images, and commentary in any format (audio, video, text), chess moves have never been subject to copyright in any legal system! Once a goal is scored, or a chess move is performed, it is a fact, an event, and it can be announced, broadcast, discussed - this is the very purpose of the broadcasting of chess events! Banning sports journalists, players and chess fans from discussing the games outside of the “official” platform raises the question of whether monopoly and corporate interests should prevail over the freedom of speech and the choice of chess fans.
Is it really damaging for the sport and for the sponsors and investors, that there is a wide range of websites which offer a variety of functionalities to chess fans?! Is it really legal for an organisation, such as Agon, to bully not only broadcasters, but also journalists and chess fans, into secrecy?! These are the questions that are discussed in the chess community in the last few days.
ChessBomb joins other chess websites in the effort to protest this baseless and unilateral enforcement of restrictions and limitations. We strongly believe that this damages the popularity of the game, and undermines the efforts of the chess players and their teams by limiting the broadcasting and social media discussion of games! We welcome the views and comments of players, arbiters, chess fans!
- Chess moves are not copyrightable, in any relevant jurisdiction. Once a move is made, it becomes a fact, an event, which cannot be subjected to copyright.
- Agon intend to enforce restrictions by requiring that viewers on the official site agree to a “clickwrap” agreement, prohibiting them from sharing the moves.
- The ChessBomb team will not use the official site, and has not accepted the terms of the agreement.
- ChessBomb has visitors from every country in the world. In many of these countries, clickwrap agreements have no legal standing.
- ChessBomb will setup a Tor hidden service (the same technology is used by WikiLeaks), allowing volunteer visitors to anonymously submit the moves to us. As a consequence, the moves on our website may be delayed.
In the era of information technologies and the internet, it is a paradox to enforce artificial restrictions on the free flow of information - to turn what is supposed to be a widely publicised event, one of the most celebrated chess tournaments of the year, into a secured location (both on the venue and on the official website), where all involved are sworn to secrecy as if it is a military operation.
Agon makes some ridiculous claims, such as “Anyone or any organization who interferes in that (i.e. also broadcasts the moves) could be sabotaging not only Agon and its broadcast, but also potentially the future of professional chess”. This is similar to e.g. Apple claiming that Google are sabotaging not only the iPhone line, but also the future of smartphones, by making Android available. Monopoly cannot be justified by the desire of a company to maximise its profits.
As a matter of principle, we support open access to chess games. We believe chess sites should compete based on variety of features and functionality, instead of trying to create a monopoly by enforcing made-up restrictions on public-domain facts. Agon’s position clearly gives priority to corporate interests rather than to popularity of chess and the preferences of the thousands and millions of fans to choose the online platform they want to follow the games on.
For every event hosted by ChessBomb, we provide free access to the source PGN’s on request. We also always link to the official website, promote the video commentary and other materials of the organisers on social media. Users of ChessBomb often exchange links to the official website or other chess websites, which we have never aimed to restrict. These are aimed at popularising chess all over the world, attracting attention to the game, and providing opportunity for chess fans to not only view the games but also to discuss them and share their knowledge and views.
Reactions from other chess websites:
- Chessdom: Agon's new policy puts the Candidates tournament in jeopardy
- Chess.com: Candidates to start Friday, Agon blocks games transmission by chess sites