The English Premier League: clamping down on copyright infringements of its TV Rights

By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, UK

As part of an ongoing campaign against ‘piracy’ of their valuable TV rights, the English Premier League has recently obtained injunctions in the English High Court against three sellers of pre-loaded IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) boxes. These boxes allow for television to be streamed through an Internet connection, thereby avoiding the need to pay a television provider for the services.

The League has been concerned that a number of pubs in the United Kingdom are using IPTV boxes to stream Premier League football matches. As part of its wide-ranging campaign, the League is pursuing both sellers of the IPTV boxes and also the licensees of pubs that are providing English Premier League matches to their customers using IPTV boxes without paying any subscriptions for the privilege.

The three companies supplying IPTV boxes, Football for Pub Limited, Pub Entertainment Systems and Neosat were all ordered to cease the sale of the boxes and between them were ordered to pay costs totaling £267,000.

The Premier League is continuing to bring legal proceedings in order to protect its copyright and the investment in its broadcasting and media packages by both Sky and BT TV Sport. The most recent TV rights deal involved Sky paying £4.2bn to the Premier League for a licence to broadcast live football matches for three years from 2016; whilst BT paid £960m for other TV rights for the same period.

The Premier League is also involved in legal proceedings against a number of licensees of pubs. In October 2016, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of a licensee, against an order that the licensee was infringing the Premier League’s copyright by using a domestic satellite decoder card purchased from a Danish company to stream Premier League football in a pub in Swansea in South Wales (shades of the Karen Murphy case).

With the ever increasing value of broadcasting deals of the English Premier League, the world’s most popular and lucrative one, it is only to be expected that the League will continue to pursue legal actions against ‘pirates’, who deliberately breach the copyright in the their TV transmissions, wherever and whenever it is necessary to do so!