The Football Premier League may have to renegotiate its exclusive agreements with Sky Sports and ESPN, after Karen Murphy, the pub landlady who was fighting a legal battle against the Premier League over using a foreign TV decoder in her pub to screen games, won her battle in the European court.
Murphy was originally taken to court for using a Greek decoder in her pub to screen football matches and fined £8,000.
She then continued with the case, taking it to Luxembourg where it was ruled this morning by the European Court of Justice that the exclusive licenses for broadcasting football matches across separate EU countries was ‘contrary to EU law'.
The ruling stated that in its attempt to justify the restriction set by the Premier League, it was unable to claim copyright over its own matches, as sporting events could not be considered as an author’s own intellectual creation.
It was ruled that exclusive licenses also contravened EU competition law, if the licence agreement meant that decoder cards could not be supplied to viewers who wished to watch broadcasts outside of the member state in which that licence had been granted.
However, a warning was also sounded by the court that "The screening in a pub of football-match broadcasts containing protected works requires the authorisation of the author of those works."
The Premier League’s agreements for exclusive broadcast rights to its matches with broadcasters Sky Sports and ESPN may have to be overhauled as a result.
Commenting Tony Ballard, partner at law firm Harbottle & Lewis, said:"The Court held that the showing of a broadcast in a pub without consent is itself an infringement of copyright. Rights holders may therefore yet see off the pubs and the biter may yet be bit.
"This is because the pub is perfectly free to get itself a decoder card from a Greek broadcaster, which the Court has ruled is a single market issue, but if they use the card in the pub then that is a copyright issue. In other words, the landlady can't use the card to show Premier League football to customers, but only for her private use."