The Premier League have lost their case in the European Court of Justice.
Unless we are not understanding the decision fully, it seem to be a rather strange decision.
The case was brought by the Premier League against Portsmouth publican, Karen Murphy, for using the Greek satellite decoder to show matches live.
The ECJ said this in a statement:
“A system of licences for the broadcasting of football matches which grants broadcasters territorial exclusivity on a member state basis and which prohibits television viewers from watching the broadcasts with a decoder card in other member states is contrary to EU law.”
The case in the ECJ also involves the makers of such decoder cards, and were presumably trying to make them illegal so they couldn’t be used.
In its judgment on these decoder cards, the ECJ stated
“National legislation which prohibits the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums.”
This to us seems a strange decision and it will make it very difficult for the Premier Lague to sell broadcast rights on a country-by-country basis in Europe.
That’s also interesting because we’ve noticed the BBC does exactly that with some of their videos, and some are often barred in America, because of the geographical location.
UEFA also sells the rights for the Champions League on a country by country basis, so they will also be impacted by this ruling.
To make things a bit more complicated – well after all these are legal decisions – the ECJ also ruled that only the opening sequence, the Premier League anthem, and clips showing highlights of recent Premier League matches could be protected by copyright, but not the matches themselves:
“By contrast, the matches themselves are not works enjoying such protection,”
Pubs would have to obtain permission to broadcast those opening sequences, but not the match itself, so they don’t need to bother because the game is what everybody wants to see.
It’s almost a ruling which looks at Europe almost as one country, where you cannot differentiate among the countries. The ruling is saying you cannot copyright game on a country by country basis.
That’s how it is in the US of course, but it’s all one country, and very dissimilar to Europe, with their different languages and traditions of each country.
And even in the US for NFL games the video of a game will not be shown in a local area, if the game is not a sell-out, and that often leads to someone coming in and buying the remaining tickets so the game is not blacked out in the area where the home team is located and playing.
This European ruling would not allow that procedure in America presumably, if we applied this ruling to America.
It seems a strange decision to us by the ECJ, and we suppose the Premier League will have to sell the rights on some other basis, yet to be worked out, but we fully expect the Premier League to appeal this decision.