Keep your eye on the ball

By Mike Berry

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Premier league Law Karen murphy

Licensees need an answer on satellite footy saga, says Mike Berry
Licensees need an answer on satellite footy saga, says Mike Berry
They think it’s all over... it is now for Karen Murphy. The final whistle has blown on her six-year legal battle against her conviction for using foreign satellite services to show live Premier League football in her Portsmouth pub, the Red, White & Blue.

Last week, the High Court quashed Murphy’s 2006 conviction for breaching copyright law in a case that has been to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and back.

But the ruling is not the dramatic late winner many football-loving publicans would like. Yes, it’s undoubtedly a fantastic personal victory for Murphy and testament to her strength of character and determination to clear her name. But it’s certainly not a green light for publicans to show top-flight football via foreign decoders.

The QC Leisure case (see the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, 9 February 2012), which was reviewed by the ECJ alongside the Murphy case, ruled that so-called “additionals” such as opening video sequences, certain graphics and highlights and the Premier League music (no, I have no idea what that sounds like either), are protected by copyright.

The Premier League and Sky are both warning of their intention to take action against people who infringe those rights.

Put simply, if you want to use foreign satellite to show the beautiful game in your pub, then you need the permission of the Premier League to use these elements of the broadcast.

So in that respect, the Murphy decision is a bit of a distraction. While it attracts headlines and column inches devoted to one woman’s brave fight against the corporate big-boys, it doesn’t alter the landscape for fellow licensees in the here-and-now.

No doubt foreign satellite suppliers will be looking closely at how they can tweak their broadcasts to avoid falling foul of the law, and the Premier League will develop its branded content through new technology to further uphold ownership.

Stuck in the middle are publicans, still unclear about what they can and cannot do, and what risks legal action. There is an urgent need to clarify the position on copyright in UK law. Pubs must know where they stand. Until that happens, it’s a case of watch this space.

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