Score draw as both sides claim copyright victory

SKY and the Premier League were declaring victory after last week’s High Court ruling on how UK copyright law relates to the use of European satellite decoders to show English Premier League games in UK pubs.

But while they pledged to take action against suppliers on copyright grounds, their opponents argued “the majority of claims against our clients are to be dismissed” after several copyright claims were overturned.
Lord Justice Kitchin was asked to judge whether the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is breached by the suppliers of European satellite decoders that allow pubs to show games carrying copyrighted works.
In his ruling, Lord Kitchin said that both QC Leisure and fellow defendant AV Station have authorised “infringing acts” in supplying publicans with NOVA and ART cards.
The Premier League insisted the judgement makes clear its “right to prevent the unauthorised use of our copyrights in pubs and clubs when they are communicated to the public without our authority”, a statement echoed by broadcaster Sky.
“Working with the Premier League and other broadcasters, Sky will continue to do all it can to protect its commercial customers by taking action against those who do not have an appropriate subscription,” a spokeswoman for Sky said.
But despite Sky’s assertion, solicitors acting for QC Leisure were also claiming victory.
“Insofar as there has been a finding of infringement relating to a limited number of artistic works, our clients also welcome Lord Justice Kitchin’s confirmation that they must be entitled to carry on their business in a way which avoids any such infringement,” said Anand Pattani, partner at Smithfield Partners.
The case of the English Premier League versus QC Leisure was referred back to the High Court after the European Court of Justice ruled in October that action to prevent the use of European decoders was “contrary to the freedom to provide services”. It had been considered by the ECJ alongside the appeal of Portsmouth licensee Karen Murphy, who had been prosecuted for using a Greek decoder to show Premier League games in her pub. A date of February 24 has been set for the High Court to assess how the ECJ ruling relating to the Murphy case will be interpreted in UK law.