Rights to Broadcast Live Sports: Advice & Tips

Broadcast Live Sports


Viewers crave live sporting events, and sports is one of the most profitable industries in the world. Viewers generally don’t mind paying for subscriptions to TV and online OTT video services to watch their favorite sports teams. Pay-per-view sports has long been one of the most lucrative broadcast live video businesses. And with the massive audiences, sports can drive, advertising can be highly effective as well.

This blog post will look at rules, regulations, and rights around broadcasting live sport. There are various intellectual property considerations to take into account when broadcasting anything.

In this article, we’ll cover who owns the broadcast video, the Right of Privacy, and licensing publicity rights in sports. Then, we’ll finish up with the rights regarding the location where filming took place. With so much on the line, it’s important to know the involved rights to broadcast live sports or stream them.

Also, a note that this post aims to simplify this topic for newcomers to the topic. Unless otherwise noted, this focuses on streaming solutions for a U.S.-based audience.

Who holds the rights to a broadcast live stream?

Anytime you broadcast a video stream, you have the rights for that content. Unless you sign away those rights, all rights belong to you, the broadcaster.

broadcast liveHowever, you may not even realize when you’re signing away rights. When you broadcast using a service like YouTube or Facebook, you grant those companies the right to use your content any way they choose. You don’t lose any of your rights, but rather YouTube gains the same rights over your video.

At Dacast, even after your content has broadcast live, the original broadcaster still owns the video and all rights to it. This is one important reason to use a professional streaming solution such as Dacast. All rights for your content remain in your hands, without 3rd-party branding or outside marketing.

The takeaway: to keep all your content rights, don’t use free video platforms. If it’s free, you’re the product.

“Right of Publicity”

The Right of Publicity, sometimes called “personality rights,” protects against unauthorized uses of a person’s name or likeness for commercial purposes. Do note, however, the Right of Publicity can change state to state in the U.S. The law also varies country by country.

In California, for example, photos of crowds, such as public streets or sporting events, are not in violation of the law as long as “no person is singled out.” Any person whose name or image is both singled out and is used to sell products may claim misappropriation of rights.

So, how do you legally use someone’s likeness for broadcast live stream sports events?

Licensing Rights

live stream sportsSimply put, an athlete can sell or consent to their use of publicity rights by signing a licensing agreement. A licensing agreement is a contract where an athlete authorizes a licensee to use their name or likeness in merchandise, advertising, or broadcasts.

Typically, any sports team that broadcasts their match requires all players, coaches, referees, and other personnel to sign a licensing agreement with the team or league itself. With this contract in place, the team or league can negotiate directly and collectively with broadcasters around the rights to record and distribute or broadcast live sports.

The takeaway: If you broadcast live sports, know that that it’s your responsibility to ensure licensing agreements are signed and in place.

Professional Sporting Events Broadcast Live

Any business that seeks to broadcast live club or professional sporting events should always seek approval from the league or organization.

broadcast liveThe sports team or league owns the exclusive rights to any game or event they organize. Because this material is licensed and copyrighted, users cannot stream or broadcast these games and events on streaming platforms. Why not? The usage and broadcasting rights do not belong to the user in the first place. Note that this is true even with platforms like Dacast, where you do retain rights over your content.

Without explicit permission from a sporting league or organization, no one individual has the right to broadcast or stream professional sporting events that are copyrighted and licensed.

The takeaway:  Get the proper permissions so that both you and the league can benefit from your business model—legally.

Youth Sports and Legal Rights

Youth sports are increasingly popular. And as streaming solutions become more common, broadcast live stream sports with youth athletes are on the rise as well. But anytime you are dealing with minors as a business, you need to be extra cautious. In particular, what should you know about legal rights and dangers for broadcasting youth sports?

broadcast livePolicies will sometimes exist that allow parents, fans, and viewers to take photos and videos of the players. Other times, a policy will prevent any individuals from photographing or recording the participants. Youth sports leagues use this latter approach widely. In this context, it adds an extra layer of protection for the children. If the league does not specify any policy on photography and filming, you should ask the parents/players.

The takeaway: If you are broadcasting commercially, you should always get signed releases and licenses from parents and guardians, as well as from coaches.

Location Rights

Venues in which sports take place are often owned by businesses with their own policies and rights. You need to inform these businesses of commercial activities taking place on their premises, including broadcast live stream sports events.

Before broadcasting in a private place, it is best to ask for and receive permission to do so. Ideally, you should make this request in writing.


We hope that this article has helped clarify some of the legal and copyright issues around broadcasting live sports. When in doubt, ask questions from a legal professional. Make sure you read through policies for the location you are filming. Brush up on any league rules that could affect your broadcasting.

It’s essential to stream with a professional streaming solutions platform to secure all rights to your broadcasts. Not yet streaming with Dacast, and ready to give our platform a try? Sign up below and enjoy all our features free for 14 days (no credit card required)!

Get Started For Free

For exclusive offers and live streaming tips, you can also join our LinkedIn group. Still have questions, comments, or feedback? Let us know in the comment section below, and we’ll get back to you. We love to hear from our readers!

Note to our readers: this article has been updated as of July 2019.

Nick Small

Nick is a technical writer and marketer. While at Dacast, he helped the marketing team research and produce video streaming content for our readers.