This is a story of a landlady for a Portsmouth pub in the UK, who bought a satellite television decoder from another European country to show Premier League games. Karen Murphy, the landlady for the Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth bought a Greek decoder card to show Premier League games, the key point in all of this is the decoder card is cheaper than paying to show the games on BSkyB, as most establishments do in the UK. This case made it all the way to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), where a ruling was made yesterday against Ms. Murphy who will be allowed to continue broadcasting games using the decoder. The ECJ states that prohibiting:
“import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums”
However, the ECJ said that this area does fall under copyright protection in the UK which means that while Ms. Murphy lost because the card is used for broadcast to the public, it does open the door for private use of the cards. The Guardian article notes:
However, the ECJ said live match coverage itself was not covered by copyright protection, although the Premier League could claim ownership of FAPL-branded opening video sequences, theme music, on-screen graphics and highlights of previous matches.
This means that as long as the FAPL and BSkyB ensure that match coverage includes enough copyright elements pubs will not be allowed to show foreign broadcasts.
The big implications of this case, is for individuals. The ruling basically counter acts the territorial region-by-region rights which the Premier League sells. It is now possible for fans to go out and get the cards and get Premier League for cheaper. This means that fans could potentially try and get around paying the high BSkyB fees, which BSkyB can’t be a fan of as they paid over one billion pounds for the broadcast rights in the U.K. The big implication is that the Premier League may be forced to change the method in which they sell broadcast rights from regional, to a single Pan-European package.
The Premier League had this to say:
“The areas of law involved are complicated and necessarily we will take our time to digest and understand the full meaning of the judgment and how it might influence the future sale of Premier League audio-visual rights in the European Economic Area.”
The Premier League will have to wait for some further court rulings in the UK high courts in regards to this case, but they are probably worried. They are said to make a billion pounds for their non-UK television rights this year, and are receiving around 1.6 billion pounds for UK rights from BSkyB. How they will potentially switch their sales of broadcast rights is an important question, with big financial implications for the league as well as fans and consumers alike. As a side note, the Guardian had a poll, and almost 75% of people said they would now try to buy the foreign decoder cards to watch Premier League matches.