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Pub landlady can use foreign decoder to broadcast football games

4 October 2011

The European Court of Justice ruled this morning that a pub landlady from Portsmouth can use a Greek satellite decoder card to show locals live Premier League matches. Karen Murphy had cancelled the pub’s BSkyB subscription to save money.

The ECJ said national legislation, which banned the use of overseas decoders, amounted to an unlawful restriction on competition.

Karen Murphy, landlady of the Red, White and Blue in Southsea, was prosecuted by Portsmouth magistrates in 2006 under section 297(1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

She had appealed to the High Court after the Crown Court in Portsmouth upheld her conviction and fine for dishonestly receiving a broadcast with intent to avoid paying charges.

The Premier League grants exclusive licenses to broadcasters such as NOVA in Greece to screen live matches in their countries. Both NOVA and Sky use satellite decoder cards.

When she took over the pub, Murphy cancelled the subscription to Sky to save money and instead used a NOVA viewing card.

As well as the criminal action against Murphy, the Premier League took civil action against the supplier of the foreign satellite cards. The Chancery Division of the High Court and Administrative Court referred both cases to Europe for a ruling.

In February this year Advocate General Kolcott gave her opinion in the two related cases of Murphy v Media Protection Services (case C-429/08) and Premier League v QC Leisure and others (case C-403/08).

She held that exclusive territorial licenses where the broadcaster is licensed to broadcast the content only its own territory, and contractual obligations which require the broadcaster to prevent the use of its satellite decoder cards outside of the licensed territory, infringed article 10(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and restricted competition.

Confirming her ruling, the ECJ also ruled that under article 2(a) of directive 2001/29/EC, no breach of copyright had taken place.

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