By Jonathan Copping, Commercial Litigation Lawyer, Stone King LLP, London, United Kingdom
The English Premier League campaign against the illegal streaming of its matches has been well documented (see earlier GSLTR website posts).
That is largely in part to the number of successes the League has had in the English High Court, most notably the order obtained that requires UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block people from illegally watching its matches. This order applies to the four largest ISP providers in the UK: Virgin Media, Sky, BT and TalkTalk.
Due to the global popularity of the League, orders, such as those made in the English High Court, are only part of the need for the League to stop its matches from being watched illegally.
For it to maintain and increase its revenue streams, the League needs to stop matches being streamed illegally abroad. Failing to do that will lead to foreign broadcasting companies offering lower sums, to broadcast League matches and content in their territories, thus devaluing the League’s rights.
One such country, where the issue of illegal streaming is a problem for the League, is Singapore.
Broadcasters are putting pressure on the Singaporean government to clampdown on the sale of set- top boxes that allow television to be streamed through an internet connection, thereby avoiding the need to subscribe to a television rights package.
The boxes are referred to as IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) boxes in the UK and sometimes also referred to as Kodi boxes, to reflect the Kodi application that is commonly used in the streaming of content.
IPTV boxes are currently considered legal in Singapore and are commonly available on the high-street.
The League has now joined forces with two other companies and brought Court proceedings against two set-top box providers. The proceedings allege that the set-top box providers have breached Singapore copyright laws because the boxes are designed to be able to show copyrighted content, free of charge.
In a joint statement with the other claimants, the League commented:
“The alarming proliferation of piracy and illicit streaming devices that are used to view copyright-protected content hurts both consumers and producers. Piracy makes it untenable for producers to keep on creating content for the public’s enjoyment and Singapore cannot effectively encourage innovation when intellectual property rights are constantly trampled on.”
Whilst the legislation in Singapore is relatively advanced, making it possible to bring such proceedings, it is not necessarily the case that the League will be able to protect its valuable copyright in its televised matches in other countries where piracy is taking place, particularly where the legislative process to enforce such rights may be troublesome.