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28 April 2018

This letter has been sent to Only some minor spelling corrections have been applied.

With huge skepticism, I took notice of the Draft "FIDE LIVE MOVES BROADCASTING POLICY", in which FIDE proposes a list of sanctions that should prohibit individuals and organizations to share live moves of FIDE Tournaments.

The timing of the draft is shocking as in the past few years, several courts have agreed that live chess moves are in the public domain and therefore can’t be copyrighted. Chess promoters (either organizers or chess websites) have spent a lot of money on law costs – money that’s lost for chess. Where does FIDE find the guts to take the law in its own hands with this draft?

But most of all, I’m disappointed in the alarming signal that FIDE radiates. Instead of promoting and distributing chess as much as possible, it wants to put restrictions on spreading live moves of its own tournaments.

FIDE’s proposal would not only restrict broadcasters of chess moves but also, the growing group of video streamers who make live video coverage of chess tournaments.

For example, during the recent Candidates Tournament, there were two live streams by the organizers (in English and German), but also Chess24 (English and Spanish), Chessbrah (English), Crestbook (Russian), Saint Louis Chess Club (English), and Ian Nepomniatchi (Russian), as well as audio commentary by Chessbase and ICC, which attracted a relatively large audience. 

That is a nice list, with a variety of commentary in different languages, which shows there is a market for live chess video broadcasts! 

Doesn’t FIDE see that there is a demand for more video material (by different commentators!) and that these broadcasts serve a large audience? During the Candidates Tournament, I spoke with several young visitors who were recently introduced to chess by watching the Chessbrahs on Twitch – and we are talking about people who decided to spend money to come to Berlin to see the action live.

I understand it's tempting for FIDE to monopolize the entire market of live moves and live video streams – as World Chess sold many subscriptions to their online platform of the New York match. However, chess needs innovation to develop live broadcasts even more, and that can only be achieved in an open market. Chess will lose viewership when only FIDE is allowed to broadcast live moves and provide live video commentary. And besides that, none of the top sports federations produces and broadcasts its own events, but it sells licenses to other parties instead. Chess should also go into that direction.

My advice to FIDE is therefore to look for ways to sell video material of its major tournaments. This can involve one or more video feeds from the playing hall, the player interviewed directly after the game, or even offering a studio next to the playing hall. Let streamers buy content that could improve their broadcast, which serves more chess fans and also gets more viewership for the tournament sponsors.

In the short term, selling online video licenses may not make millions, but the Draft "FIDE LIVE MOVES BROADCASTING POLICY” doesn’t either. It does, however, motivate people to stream chess tournaments, generate a new group of chess audience, thus promoting chess. And the more people who see the video feed from the playing hall, the more visibility of the sponsors. The World Wide Web is made for chess. Do not fear its danger, but use the internet to further promote the sport.

With best regards,
Lennart Ootes
Chess broadcaster & photographer