In February, Lord Justice Kitchin said that the FAPL’s copyright had been breached by importers of foreign satellite equipment in certain areas, such as by broadcasting its anthem, logo and other on-screen graphics.
However he added that under section 72 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (CDPA), a free broadcast to an audience does not infringe any copyright in the broadcast itself (the match) and “any film included in it”.
The FAPL appealed the decision but it was yesterday dismissed in the High Court, with the judge admitting that the UK had failed to fully implement the European Union’s Copyright Directive, which would extend copyright to video replays.
It is understood that the FAPL has already opened discussions with the Government about amending the UK law so that it falls in line with the EU Copyright Directive.
However, Dave Richardson of QC Leisure has welcomed the ruling, and told the PMA that he intends to resume trading from January.
Richardson has spent the last four years assisting in the development of the the TV Ad Tech system which replaces any copyrighted on-screen graphics with other material such as advertising.
“It is a landmark day,” said Richardson. “It is absolutely brilliant news because we can now work within the framework set out by British and European judges which will let us protect the Premier League’s copyright and at the same time show live football.
“I fully intend to work within Lord Justice Kitchin’s judgement and protect the Premier League’s copyrighted material. My business is about protecting my own interests, in terms of turnover, but it is also about supporting publicans who don’t want to pay extortionate fees to show football in their pubs.”
Legal expert Peter Coulson nevertheless issued a word of warning for licensees, and commented that “this doesn’t change the situation”.
He said: “Licensees should still take great care in this area but it is likely that certain people will take advantage of this ruling by providing a service free from copyright, as it now stands.”
A spokesperson for the Premier League said: "This hearing was in regard to a very narrow issue in the QC Leisure High Court judgment and does not change the fact that the Premier League established in that case that its artistic and musical works are infringed by publicans who communicate such works to the public.
"We are encouraged that Lord Justice Etherton made clear beyond doubt that the UK government has not implemented the European Copyright Directive correctly by failing to provide protection for film works in broadcasts.
"We will now engage with Government on this matter to ask how they intend to amend UK law into line with European requirements and give copyright owners such as the Premier League the full range of rights to which they are entitled.
"We remind all publicans that Sky and ESPN are the only authorised broadcasters of live Premier League matches in the UK and that legal action will be taken against those who use unauthorised systems and cards to show live Premier League matches in a pub or other commercial premises."