Premier League continues its fight against copyright infringements

Pub landlady Karen Murphy has won her latest legal fight over her use of a foreign satellite TV decoder to transmit English Premier League games, but the League has maintained that it will continue to fight against copyright infringements.

Murphy has paid nearly £8,000 in fines and costs for using the cheaper Greek decoder in her Portsmouth pub. However, after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year ruled partly in her favour, London’s High Court backed up the finding on Friday. Instead of paying £700 per month for a BSkyB licence to broadcast Premier League matches, Murphy utilised the signal of Greek Premier League rights holder Nova, which instead cost her £800 per year. The ECJ in October ruled that football fans in the EU should be allowed to choose the cheapest method of watching games on television regardless of exclusive national broadcast agreements, stating that such legislation was “contrary to EU law”.

The High Court has now ruled that Murphy’s appeal over using the decoder to bypass controls over match screening must be permitted. However, the judge added that other complex issues regarding the wider legality of screening matches would have to be decided “at a later date”. Ahead of the hearing Murphy told BBC Radio Solent: “I hope at some time in the not too distant future the market will be opened up to a reasonable choice of product to buy. As I’ve said before, you can have any other product and you have a choice of buying any other product, and that’s the way it should be.”

Friday’s ruling comes after the Premier League’s court action against importers of foreign satellite TV decoder boxes and cards led to both sides claiming victory earlier this month. A High Court hearing had seen the League state it will now take action against pubs for breach of copyright, while satellite importers claimed they were free to carry on their business. The ECJ’s October ruling did include one area that fell in favour of the League, alongside its findings on the exclusivity of national broadcast agreements. For showing games in pubs, the court said parts of the transmission such as opening video sequences, the official Premier League anthem and certain graphics were “works” protected by copyright and their usage would require authorisation from the League.

This month’s ruling saw the High Court declare that in some respects foreign satellite equipment importers had been in breach of Premier League copyright by allowing the transmission of foreign broadcasts in the UK, but added that the League had only managed to prove its claims of a breach to a “limited extent”. The ECJ’s ruling was the one that the Premier League reiterated after Friday’s court judgement. The League said in a statement: “Following the news that Karen Murphy’s appeal to the High Court has seen her conviction overturned the Premier League would like to make clear that this decision does not change the outcome of the QC Leisure foreign satellite case.”

The statement added: “In that judgment (QC Leisure), made on 3 February 2012, Lord Justice Kitchin was consistent with the ECJ ruling and made it clear that the law gives us the right to prevent the unauthorised use of our copyrights in pubs and clubs when they are communicated to the public without our authority. That unauthorised use gives rise to both civil and criminal penalties. Therefore should Mrs Murphy, or any other publican, use European Economic Area foreign satellite systems to show Premier League football on their premises without our authority and outside the scope of our authorisation, they make themselves liable for us to take action against them in both the civil and criminal courts.”

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