Football bosses claim victory in satellite TV row

 

Football industry bosses today said they would tackle publicans using foreign satellite systems to broadcast Premier League action without permission after a new court ruling in a long-running row over the screening of live games in bars.

Premier League officials claimed victory in the latest round of a legal battle and said a ruling by a judge sitting in the High Court gave them "the right" to prevent "unauthorised use of our copyrights" in pubs and clubs.

Lawyers representing publicans said the law had been "clarified" and the Premier League and broadcasting firms had suffered "only nominal or trivial damages".

Lord Justice Kitchin, who announced his findings at a hearing in London, said the dispute had raised "issues of wide interest and general importance".

The judge said a lower court should assess what profits some pubs had made and what losses the Premier League and broadcasters, including British Sky Broadcasting, had suffered.

Lord Justice Kitchin's ruling came four months after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) analysed the issue and said transmission of games in pubs could be in breach of European copyright legislation.

A Premier League spokesman said after today's High Court hearing: "Lord Justice Kitchin's judgment is consistent with the ECJ ruling.

"It is 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.

"We will now resume actions against publicans who are using European Economic Area foreign satellite systems to show Premier League football on their premises unlawfully and without our authority.

"There are other elements of the ECJ ruling which we believe are applicable under UK law and we will continue to explore these to protect our rights via the courts and other legal means."

Lawyers representing publicans had told Lord Justice Kitchin that "the law had been clarified in a way which allows (publicans) to comply with it".

They said "only nominal or trivial damages have been suffered" by the Premier League.

Premier League bosses and broadcasters, including British Sky Broadcasting, began legal action against some pub bosses and firms it accused of unlawfully supplying equipment more than three years ago.

The dispute centred on the supply of "decoder cards", which allow UK pubs to show encrypted footage of games broadcast in Greece and Italy.

In 2008, Lord Justice Kitchin sought guidance on European law from the ECJ - which made a ruling in October 2011. The judge today published his analysis of the issues in the light of that guidance.

PA

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