No legal way to beat Sky's stranglehold

Related tags Copyright

No legal way to beat Sky's stranglehold
MA legal expert Peter Coulson warns on the temptation to install foreign satellite systems.

As you would expect, I make no apologies for returning to the subject of non-Sky football, given the latest turn of events.

It seem that certain people are happy to mislead licensees into thinking that somehow they have the answer, not only in respect of foreign decoders but also in cases where action has been taken on the basic copyright issues. In other words, the claim is that there is a legal way to beat Sky's monopoly.

But it isn't to do with the monopoly situation or the prices which Sky charges to licensees - although clearly that affects the way pub operators feel about the issue - it is entirely to do with the laws of copyright, which apply to everyone in this country.

It seems I have to repeat the plain facts time and time again: it does not matter where the signal comes from. If you show copyright material to an audience in the UK, the showing will be illegal unless you have the permission of the copyright holder.

It is like saying: "I don't have to pay the Performing Right Society (PRS), because all my music is beamed from Radio Caroline, which is outside the UK." (That dates me!)

It is the music that has the copyright, not the source.

In fact, all satellite transmissions comes to you from outside the UK. But the origin of the signal is immaterial. If you show football matches that you know are copyrighted by the Football Association on equipment or through a service that is not the official one, then you are in trouble.

All the rest is a smokescreen. There is talk of "Television without Frontiers". This has

absolutely nothing to do with copyright in football matches in Europe. Taken to its logical conclusion, it would mean that any material, including films, plays and music, would be entirely free of copyright and could be shown or played anywhere, without any payment or recognition of the copyright holders.

We have a whole Act of Parliament devoted to what is known as "intellectual property". The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act protects creative people from being ripped off, and allows certain organisations - such as the PRS and the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) - to make charges for playing other people's musical creations.

In the case of Sky, they have paid millions of pounds to the Football Association for the right to broadcast certain football matches in the UK. This has, like it or not, enriched the game of football, but has given Sky a virtual monopoly to charge both private householders and licensees as they see fit. They will protect that copyright, through the courts if necessary.

I expect to see them start to target the

providers of these "illegal" decoders before very long, as I suggested some time ago.

This will probably show clearly that the

practice breaches the Act. Meanwhile, rather

cunning advertisers seek to mislead ordinary landlords into thinking that there is an escape route.

Unfortunately, there isn't - certainly not for those of you who are reading this. I hold no brief for Sky or its controversial monopoly, but I do not want to see licensees prosecuted under the mistaken impression that they can get away with it.

Judge after judge has upheld the view that showing copyright football other than through the legitimate Sky pub viewing contract is

illegal and not a shred of evidence has been produced by anyone to contradict this.

But while the smokescreen is working, the cowboy vendors will make a fast buck and the licensed trade will be the sufferers.

Related topics Licensing law

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