ECJ decision on UK Football broadcasting rights

19-10-2011 11:57

Football fans have been celebrating more than goals since the full time score in the case between a Portsmouth pub Landlady and the English Premier League, which has resulted in a trip to Europe … no not the Champions League – but the European Courts of Justice (ECJ).

The dispute has been going on for some time and involved the Landlady broadcasting live football matches using an imported decoder box and card from Greece. In particular, the Landlady was showing 3.00pm matches which broadcasters in the UK do not have rights to show.

The English Premier League claimed that the Landlady had breached copyright law because a UK broadcaster which purchases the rights to each match has the exclusive right to broadcast the matches in the UK. 

The ECJ recently ruled in favor of the Landlady and stated that imposing rules whereby rights to matches are sold on a country by country basis are in breach of EU free trade laws.

The score may be One: Nil to the Landlady after the ECJ’s decision; however, the English Premier League may be able to achieve a late equaliser when the ECJ judgment is returned to the British High Court to be interpreted and applied in the UK. This is due to a particular point in the ECJ judgment which states that the English Premier League may be able to prevent pubs from using overseas coverage of the graphics and the anthem associated with the Premier League, unless permission is granted. Without the English Premier League’s permission to broadcast these aspects of the matches there would be a breach of copyright. It has been suggested that the English Premier League may decide to include in its match footage more branded graphics that are capable of copyright protection. This would make it difficult to separate the match coverage from the copyrighted material making it harder to broadcast the matches without breaching copyright.

The High Court judgment will not be provided for some months after which we will know whether we will need to start catching up on Greek football terms if we want to keep track of the commentary in the pub! Does anyone know the Greek for “Goal”?

If you would like any more information on this topic please contact Amanda O’Mahony: amanda.omahony@spw-law.co.uk

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