Pubs ‘feel brunt’ of rise in court cases for unlicensed streaming

By Helen Gilbert

- Last updated on GMT

Turn it up: playing music or showing sport without permission can cost pubs dear
Turn it up: playing music or showing sport without permission can cost pubs dear

Related tags: Copyright infringement

Pubs are under the cosh of the Football Association following its move to tackle the illegal streaming of matches, it has emerged.

An analysis of copyright cases brought to the high court in the year to the end of March 2017 found football and music bodies to be the top three most frequent claimants.

More than 100 cases were brought by licensing body PPL (formerly known as Phonographic Performance Limited), 39 by the Football Association and 27 by the Performing Right Society.

The analysis by professional services firm RPC showed that the number of claims made by Britain’s football governing body had increased over the last few years driven in part by a number of cases against pubs and restaurant businesses - in 2013, just five cases were brought to the High Court by the FA.

Robust litigation strategy

“The Football Association is tackling illegal streaming and underpayment of licensing fees with a robust litigation strategy – and pubs are feeling the brunt of the challenge,” said Ciara Cullen, RPC partner. “Broadcasting companies which own the rights to certain games, no doubt want football’s governing bodies to do a good job of protecting against unlicensed coverage to protect their valuable assets. Part of the Football Association strategy will often be to target pubs without a licence for infringing copyright.”

BT and Sky, which both broadcast domestic football in the UK, were also in the top 10 with eight and six cases respectively, the analysis showed.

Non-payment of music royalties 

Music companies were also cracking down on nightclubs, pubs and restaurants that play music without paying the appropriate royalties to do so, the RPC said.

Claims against nightclub, pub and restaurant companies accounted for 23% of the 106 High Court cases brought by PPL.

“Legal action can be an effective way for music companies and their representatives to recoup some of the money lost from reduced sales from the digitalisation of music content,” Cullen added. “Pubs, restaurants and nightclubs can be easier to pursue for potential copyright infringement than other culprits such as illegal file-sharing websites that tend to be based off-shore.

“Not only do the considerable damages make the process of going to court worth it for record labels or performers, but they can also help to act as a deterrent for other offenders.”

Earlier this month, The Morning Advertiser​ reported that three pubs had been charged tens of thousands of pounds​ for showing Sky Sports illegally. 

Related topics: Legislation

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