Funding legal turmoil

Related tags Crown court Judge Karen murphy

A Portsmouth licensee who had been persuaded to appeal to the Crown Court against her conviction for showing live football in breach of copyright...

A Portsmouth licensee who had been persuaded to appeal to the Crown Court against her conviction for showing live football in breach of copyright lost her case this month. She was as much a victim of the game being played off the field as on it.

The foreign satellite promoters rushed to confuse the issue by saying that the issue was confused. It was not. The Crown Court judge once again made it clear that showing copyright matches in the UK without the necessary copyright licence was against the law. This was a statement of legal fact, not some sort of pro-Sky cartel. He endorsed entirely the original decision by the stipendiary magistrate against Karen Murphy that she must have known she was acting dishonestly because she was told so by the judge herself, and by her brewery, but she chose to go ahead on the alleged confirmation by a particular solicitor that what she was doing was not illegal.

This turned out to be untrue. The only reason the previous much-publicised case went the way it did was that the defendant apparently convinced the judge that he did not act dishonestly. It was not that the legal position was in any doubt - the showing was illegal and the judge acknowledged this. But he held that the defendant had not acted dishonestly because he was convinced that what he was doing was within the law.

So when Karen Murphy went before

the Crown Court judge, she already knew that the use of a foreign satellite decoder in her pub was a breach of copyright, and she

had been told as much. So why did she appeal personally?

She didn't. Her appeal, clearly from the material I have received, was organised and funded from another source by those who want to keep the issue alive for as long as they possibly can.

This is why the statement from the very same solicitor who took Karen Murphy's case seems to suggest that the matter ought to be decided by the High Court, as if this is an

independent suggestion. But the only person who can lodge an appeal to the High Court is Ms Murphy's lawyer, because she lost. The winning side - the copyright owners - cannot appeal because they won.

The High Court cannot intervene in its own right simply because there appears to be a debate. In fact, there is no debate on the main issue - copyright in the UK is protected by the law and can be enforced. All that this latest farrago does is to postpone the inevitable.

So the lawyer concerned must be aware of what he is doing and the reasons why. The longer the confusion can be encouraged, by introducing any number of side-issues and complaints about Sky's monopoly, then the more foreign satellite systems can be sold into the licensed trade.

The judge in the most recent appeal case made it clear that he supported the findings of the stipendiary magistrates in the second Portsmouth hearing - that the copyright for the football matches rested with Sky because they had acquired the rights from the Football Association Premier League in this country. So anyone showing these matches from another source was in breach of copyright and could be prosecuted.

The judge also awarded substantial costs against Ms Murphy. But it seems to me clear that she cannot be funding this action herself, nor could she possibly afford to go to the High Court, if that is the next step. She clearly has another source of funding. Who stands to gain most from prolonging this situation? I leave you to decide.

Related topics Legislation

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