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Changes to Copyright Law affecting free public showing or playing of a broadcast

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The changes to Section 72 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 are as a result of legal action brought by the Football Association Premier League and hopefully will bring clarity to premises wishing to show premier league football to its customers.

Section 72 used to allow organisations which don’t charge for admission to show television broadcast and any film contained in the broadcast with the permission of the copyright holder.  This Section led to some commercial premises attempting to rely on the exception to show exclusive subscription television broadcasts without paying for the required commercial Licences, often attempting to remove the created aspects of sports broadcasts by switching off the sound, placing cards over logos or using masking technology to obscure logos when showing premier league football.  This resulted in it becoming very difficult for copyright owners to take legal action to enforce the use of commercial subscriptions which distorted the market between pubs which paid for commercial subscriptions and those using cheaper unauthorised systems.

The change to Section 72 means that those wishing to show broadcasts in public may need to gain the permission of film rightsholders to show the film contained within a broadcast.  Separate Licenses may still also be required from PRS and PPL in relation to the music contained in a broadcast.

The change to Section 72 only affects the showing or playing of broadcasts in public by organisations and premises that do not charge an entrance fee.

Free to air channels tend not to charge commercial premises for showing television programmes to the public but pubs and other premises showing free to air broadcasts may need to check with broadcasters that they are permitted to show the films contained within a broadcast in the same way that they need to ascertain whether they have permission to show or play any other underlying works such as music.

Essentially the change to Section 72 has made the position clearer regarding pubs and other commercial premises requiring a commercial subscription to show exclusive subscription broadcasts.  In these cases, the commercial subscription acts as a Licence for example in the UK, Sky Sports and BT Sport are authorised to broadcast live Premier League games.

The law on showing television broadcasts to the public is the same for both commercial and non-commercial organisations, however, many copyright owners choose to permit non-commercial activity without a Licence at a reduced rate.

The main effect will be to act to make illegal those systems that use technology to block logos and themes.

For further information, please contact Andrew Cochrane.

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