Premier League Scores High Court Decision, Protects Against Online Piracy

The Barclay’s Premier League won a landmark decision in the British High Court this week when a judgment was issued which requires the 6 main internet service providers (ISP’s) in the United Kingdom to block and prohibit access to one of the largest illegal live football-streaming sites in the country.

The Court’s judgment found the First Row Sports platform to be in breach of the Premier League’s copyright because it offered live streaming video of Premier League matches via several third party streaming services, according to an article from Soccerex. The law protecting the Premier League in this case, The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, Section 97A, has been used previously by both the music and film industries to combat piracy, according to League spokespeople, however this marks the first time that a sporting body has sought judgment against a website that infringes its copyright. It is also the first time that a judgment has been made which prohibits access to a website that facilitates access other illegal sites, according to the article.

British High Court. Photo courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

British High Court. Photo courtesy of telegraph.co.uk

This decision is a very timely one, as the Premier League’s new broadcasting deals with BSkyB and BT are set to take effect for the 2013/14 season, and will prove highly lucrative for British football’s top flight. The new deals were signed back in June of 2012 and are worth a combined £3.018 billion to the Premier League over the next 3 seasons. The Front Row Sports platform earned a reported £10 million annually in revenues, according to a BPL spokesman. Now that the Court has ordered the country’s ISP’s not give the site internet service, that number will obviously change. The Court was also sure to be clear that any pubs that were found guilty of screening any Premier League matches by way of the Front Row Sports platform would be in breach of copyright, and subject to prosecution.

The Premier League employs NetResult, an intellectual property protection firm that specializes in internet monitoring and enforcement, to be their watchdog over online media content. Other NetResult clients include UEFA, the Bundesliga, Arsenal, and Manchester United, among others. In the 2008-09 season alone, NetResult helped the Premier League deal with over 1,800 instances of illegal streaming with a 90% success rate, according to an article from the guardian, and that was 5 years ago.

 

As online piracy and copyright infringement continues to plague multiple industries in addition to professional sports like soccer, the BPL is drawing a line in the sand, starting with Front Row Sports. According to the Soccerex article, a League Spokesman said:

We are extremely pleased that the order blocking this website has been granted and we will be enforcing it, in conjunction with the ISPs, ahead of the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League season. The judgment recognises the parasitic nature of the enterprise.

The Premier League was not shy about conveying its disdain for such activity, and rightfully so. The Spokesman went even further, and sent a PSA to the general soccer viewing population:

It is absolutely imperative that content industries are afforded protection under the law if they are to continue investing in the sort of quality talent and facilities that has made them successful and of interest in the first place. The content industries are playing an increasingly significant role in the UK economy, so it is pleasing to see that the courts recognise this and prevent continued abuses of copyright.

The Premier League will be significantly upping its enforcement activity in this area in the coming months, so any publican who is being offered a service that is not either BSkyB or BT Vision should be aware that these are illegal and they open themselves up to the possibility of prosecution.

What do you think about the Court’s judgment against Front Row Sports and what it means for the Premier League’s fight against piracy? Lets us know in the comments section below or via Twitter or Facebook.

Reporting on the business side of the world's game.