Premier League hit by TV case
The Premier League may face an upheaval in how they sell their TV rights after the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of a pub landlady who used a foreign decoder to show live matches at 3pm on Saturdays. The ruling by the ECJ could have major implications for how the Premier League sell their broadcast rights both in Britain and Europe. The ECJ said 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 came to the ECJ after Portsmouth publican Karen Murphy appealed after losing a court action brought against her by the Premier League for using the Greek satellite decoder. The case in the ECJ also involves the suppliers of such decoder cards to those pubs. In its judgment, the ECJ ruled: "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." The implications of the ruling could not just affect the Premier League but every sport that sells broadcast rights on a country-by-country basis. It is also how UEFA, for example, sell the rights for the Champions League. It could also affect the sale of TV programmes generally across Europe. The ECJ also ruled that only the opening video sequence, the Premier League anthem, and pre-recorded clips showing highlights of recent Premier League matches and various graphics could be protected by copyright. "By contrast, the matches themselves are not works enjoying such protection," says the ruling. Pubs would have to obtain permission to broadcast those opening sequences, said the ruling, but not the match itself. The Premier League have yet to comment on the ruling but one option for them may be to sell their domestic rights and European rights as one giant package, but with no Saturday 3pm games included. The Premier League are also likely to argue that the ECJ's ruling that "various graphics" shown before and during matches can be regarded as copyright will allow them to retain control of where the live games can be shown.