More success for the English Premier League in its copyright piracy campaign

By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom

The English Premier League has made further progress in its ongoing clampdown on the piracy of its audiovisual content.

Mr Justice Arnold, sitting in the High Court in London, ordered that Britain’s largest broadband providers – Virgin Media, Sky, BT and TalkTalk – to block connections to servers that host pirated streams of English Premier League football.

In response to the ruling, a Sky spokesperson, commenting in ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper, said:

We are pleased the Premier League’s application to crack down on illegal streaming has been granted. Content piracy is theft and the success of this application is an important step in tackling the issue. We’ll continue to work with rights holders, government, online market places and content creators to tackle today’s piracy and make people aware of the risks it presents and the damage it causes”.

Internet Protocol TV boxes (IPTV), commonly referred to as Kodi boxes (Kodi), because of the ‘Kodi App’ that is often pre-installed on the box, allow a user to stream for television through an internet connection, thereby avoiding the requirement to pay Sky or BT Sport for the services. IPTV boxes, as well as the Kodi application, are both legal; however, problems arise, when the box and the application are used to stream subscription content via unlicensed streams.

It is the Premier League’s position that, by using IPTV and Kodi, users are infringing the Premier League’s audiovisual copyright because they are not watching the football via a licensed broadcaster.

This latest development follows quickly on the back of the suspended sentence and £250,000 fine handed down last week to a Teesside dealer in the North East of England for selling “fully loaded” IPTV boxes that enabled copyrighted content to be screened free of charge.

It is unknown, at this stage, whether the latest court order will be effective in preventing the unauthorized streaming of Premier League games; however, it is expected that if it is not, the Premier League will continue to take court actions to protect its valuable copyright in the transmission of its games (see my post of 8 March 2017). It will be recalled that the Premier League sold its live rights for the three seasons beginning in 2016 for the record sum of £5.14 billion!