Research by City of London-based law firm RPC for the year ending 31 March 2019 found that the Premier League brought 36 claims before the UK High Court – the same number as in the previous 12 months.
In addition, the Performance Rights Society was the second most active user, bringing 25 claims, with Sky PLC and Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) who brought eight and six claims respectively, registering the fifth and seventh most claims.
The law firm explained that a large number of these claims were brought against the operators of pubs and bars who were alleged to have shown football matches or played recorded music without permission to do so.
RPC explained that more powerful “live blocking” orders to prevent people viewing content illegally are now being used off the back of a case involving the Premier League in July 2017, requiring internet service providers to use live blocking technology to tackle illegal streams of its matches.
After shutting down 200,000 illegal streams during the 2017-18 season, the Premier League obtained an extension to the High Court’s order for the 2018-19 season.
“The responsibility of combating illegal streaming is changing hands – the onus increasingly lies with internet providers, which have been ordered to stop streams at their source,” RPC partner Ben Mark added.
“It could be that the success of the Premier League’s live blocking order opens the floodgates for other rights holders to use the same tactic.”
As a result, more rights holders have used similar orders to help them prevent copyright including UEFA, which obtained a court order requiring BT to block illegal streams of Champions League and Europa League matches during the 2018-19 season.
Concerted public effort
Rights holders Sky, BT and Amazon – which collectively paid £5.13bn for rights to televise a combined 200 Premier League matches from the upcoming season – are becoming increasingly vigilant in stamping out illegal streams according to RPC.
As reported by The Morning Advertiser on 3 June, courts demanded three licensees each pay £10,000 in damages for illegally screening Sky Sports programming in their premises, while sales of illegal streaming devices to more than 1,000 pubs, clubs and home landed three people in jail two months prior.
“Football authorities have made a concerted public effort to let illegal streamers know that they are on their case,” RPC partner Paul Joseph explained. “They will hope that those considering breaching copyright law will think twice before doing so.
“Rights holders will continue to use court action as a way of shutting out businesses who ‘steal’ their product for as long as is necessary. However, they will now hope that internet providers help them.
“The internet created huge, almost existential, challenges to business models of owners of music, films and other content so it’s not surprising that rights owners and bodies that represent them do all they can to protect their businesses.”