Premier League football fans can buy foreign broadcasts, rules EU

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The European court of justice has ruled that the FA Premier League cannot stop individuals watching foreign TV broadcasts of live English football.

The court however found against pub landlord Karen Murphy, who brought the case, ruling she couldn't broadcast Greek TV's coverage of Premier League football in her pub in Portsmouth.

Showing the content in a pub was ruled a breach of the rights holders' copyright, though live matches were not covered by this copyright. However, provided the Premier League and BSkyB include enough elements of copyright coverage – such as branded themes, graphics – pubs would be unable to show the coverage.

The ruling could potentially have a huge impact on how BSkyB and other broadcasters buy live sports coverage and more, with the EU court suggesting indivudal country-by-country deals could be at an end.

BSkyB paid the Premier League £1.6bn for three years of coverage. Sky's share price fell 3% at the news of the EU ruling.

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Published 03/02/2011:

The European Union's highest court was today advised to rule that EU law does not prohibit pubs showing live Premier League matches from foreign broadcasters.

The decision could transform the way media sports rights are sold across the continent, and make it easier for TV viewers to subscribe to foreign broadcasters by using decoder cards and set-top boxes that are available in other member states.

The advice came from Juliane Kokott, one of the eight advocate generals of the European court of justice, who gave her view on a landmark case brought by Karen Murphy, landlady of the Red, White and Blue pub in Portsmouth.

Murphy uses a Greek decoder card to show live Premier League matches at much cheaper rates than BSkyB charges commercial premises in the UK.

The FA Premier League, which sells TV rights exclusively to broadcasters across Europe on a territory-by-territory basis, is attempting to clamp down on British pubs buying in live coverage from foreign broadcasters.

Kokott said that the "economic exploitation of the [TV] rights is not is not undermined by the use of foreign decoder cards as the corresponding charges have been paid for those cards".

"While those charges are not as high as the charges imposed in the UK there is ... no specific right to charge different prices for a work in each member state," she added.

Kokott said that the idea of selling on a territorial exclusivity basis was "tantamount to profiting from the elimination of the internal market".

The Premier League said that it believes Kokott's opinion would "damage the interests of broadcasters and viewers of Premier League football across the EU".

The Premier League will make more than £1.6bn in the UK alone from its current three-year deal with BSkyB and has a separate deal in this country for live match coverage with ESPN.

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