No injunction in satellite football case
11.02 Europe/London, February 6, 2012 By Julian Clover

The Premier League has failed to secure an injunction in the on-going dispute over whether reception of encrypted satellite broadcasts from overseas should be allowed.

The Premier League and broadcasters including BSkyB, Canal Plus and Multichoice were seeking an injunction to prevent the transmission of video content, logo types and themes included in the international feed of its football matches broadcast by foreign satellite platforms such as ART and NOVA.

Sparked by Portsmouth landlady Karen Murphy’s screening of foreign football coverage, the case had returned to the High Court following last year’s opinion by the European Court of Justice.

Pubs have long sought to avoid paying the commerical rates levied by Sky and ESPN to screen live sports – by taking foreign satellite pictures they can also show a Saturday 3pm kick-off.

Last week, Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch acknowledged the pressure on pubs in the current ecconomic climate, and said the satcaster was reducing the cost for pubs where there was an emphasis on food.

Lord Justice Kitchen said the defendants, including QC Leisure that supplied the smart cards to Murphy, had escaped an injunction because of the “encompassing and complex claims” made against them. The defendants also feared that claimants would attempt to use any injunction granted by this court to convince the public that they have succeeded and can use their copyright to prevent the trade in and use of decoder cards from other Member States.

However, despite the ongoing failure to resolve the case the Premier League said it would resume its pursuit of venues that were screening its matches without permission: “It is clear that the law gives us the right to prevent the unauthorised use of our copyrights in pubs and clubs when they are communicated to the public without our authority”.

Returning to his earlier judgement on the case in June 2008, Justice Kitchen said that QC Leisure and AV Station, which had supplied smart cards capable of decoding satellite channels on the NOVA and ART platforms, were responsible for any action of infringement, rather than those who were actually using them. “In my judgment none of these matters justifies my revisiting my decision. I have found that the supply of the decoder cards to customers constituted an authorisation to use the decoder cards for the purpose for which they were supplied.”

At a late stage the claimants added a request for disclosure of the extent of the defendants’ dealings in and use of decoder cards.

In declining to make an injunction, Justice Kitchen referred the case to the County Patent Court.