Last week, pub landlady Karen Murphy, won her legal battle in the High Court to use satellite decoders to gain access to foreign broadcasts of Premier League games.
Mrs Murphy was originally fined £8000 for using an illegal satellite decoding device, which was used to gain access to the broadcast of Greek channel “Nova”, at a considerably cheaper £800 a year compared to Sky’s £700 a month pub package. She appealed this ruling to the High Court on the grounds that Sky’s monopoly was “contrary to EU law”.
It was a complicated case and as a result it was referred to the European Court of Justice by the London High Court in an advisory capacity. The ECJ came back with a clear statement, “national legislation which prohibits the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified.” The High Court in London followed this advice and ruled in Mrs Murphy’s favour.
However, the ECJ did say graphics, highlights packages and the Premier League theme are protected under copyright law and publicans would have to request permission from the Premier League to broadcast. A judge at the High Court said the legality of the issues raised would be dealt with at “a later date.”
Mrs Murphy was relieved it was over after being fed up with the whole ordeal. She told local radio before the ruling, “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.” However, this ruling may have a knock-on effect of causing less competition in the market, as the largest sports broadcasters seek exclusive Europe wide rights, (for more click here).
The Premier League’s response to the ruling was quick to reiterate; permission was still required to broadcast using foreign decoders.
“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.”
However, this ruling can only be a good thing for a large number of football fans across the UK who have felt ripped off by Sky and the Premier League for a number of years.