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Match screening prosecutions: Premier League threatens over copyright

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The High Court has now followed the European Court of Justice’s ruling that pub landlady Karen Murphy should be allowed to use a foreign TV decoder to bypass controls over match screening.

Whilst this looks like a major victory for pub landlords who want to avoid Sky’s fee of several hundred pounds a month to show Premier League football matches, they would still be well advised to tread carefully in order to avoid match screening prosecutions.

Warning to other landlords

Both the European Court of Justice and the judge at the High Court made it clear that there were other issues that could make the screening of Premier League matches illegally when using foreign decoders.

This is because whilst the matches themselves cannot be deemed to be protected by copyright, it will protect any surrounding media such as the Premier League anthem, graphics and pre-recorded highlights of recent matches.

As a result, the Premier League is preparing, quite within its rights, to take civil and criminal legal action against any landlord screening these protected elements.

Are there any loopholes in the law?

It remains to be debated whether landlords will try to get around match screening prosecutions by turning off the sound when the anthem is played and covering the part of the television where the Premier League logo is displayed. But it is still not clear in law whether taking these such measures will avoid copyright infringement.

What to expect moving forward

Undoubtedly further case law will clarify the position regarding match screening prosecutions, but the hope is that this recent ruling will change the way football TV rights are sold and hopefully enable cheaper viewing in the longer term.

For further information on your rights when looking to show recorded materials within your licensed premises, please contact our Alcohol & Entertainment Licensing team on 01332 340 211.

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