Legal Updates

Sports Law – UK Broadcasters Face Losing ‘Exclusive’ Broadcast Rights – The Offence of Fraudulently Receiving Transmissions

European and English law stand head-to-head in deciding the outcome of the Case of Murphy v Media Protection Services Ltd [2007] in which, a publican, Karen Murphy, had her case referred to the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) after her appeal against a criminal conviction of fraudulent reception of transmissions was rejected in the English High Court.

This case relates to the screening of Premier League football matches sourced from non UK feeds. Murphy had purchased the feeds from a Greek satellite rights holder, which she purchased for £800.00 per annum by comparison to the feeds from UK exclusive broadcasting rights holder BSkyB, which cost £6,000.00 per annum.

BSkyB has adopted a policy of prosecuting UK publicans for several years, with the hope of curbing the growing practice amongst publicans of obtaining broadcasting Premier League football feeds from broadcasters in other member states. BSkyB has always sought to rely on the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (“CDPA”), which makes it a criminal sanction to receive broadcasts in the UK by avoiding UK charges. BSkyB has been able to successfully argue that unauthorised screening of Premier League football through fees from another broadcaster amounts to an offence of copyright infringement. This is the offence of fraudulently receiving transmissions.

BSkyB has met with opposition and the ECJ is now expected to rule in favour of free movement of goods and services, which would mean that a legitimately purchased feed from a broadcaster in a member state, would not amount to a criminal offence under s.1(1) (b) and Chapter VII of the CDPA.

A decision from the EJC is expected within the next 12 months.

If you require further information please contact us at enquiries@rtcoopers.com

© RT COOPERS, 2008. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.

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