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Karen Murphy: 1 Sky Sports: 0

Karen Murphy: 1 Sky Sports: 0

The European Court has found in favour of a pub landlord in Portsmouth to the effect that a law which has the effect of banning use of decoder cards to obtain a foreign broadcast of football matches, is contrary to EU competition law which protects free movement of services.

The hearing on 4th October is the latest involving Karen Murphy against the FA and Sky Sports and, in particular, their exclusivity deal which purports to exclude people from obtaining Premiership match broadcasts other than through paying Sky when they could be obtained much more cheaply abroad.

The case is essentially about copyright law, i.e. the extent of the right of the FA and Sky to prevent ‘unauthorised’ publication of matches in the UK and whether the 2007 conviction of Karen Murphy for breach of section 297 Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988, should stand under EU law.

It may surprise some that breach of copyright can have criminal sanctions but this can be the case in certain circumstances where the alleged breach is deliberate as here – indeed Karen Murphy openly obtained the decoder and fought the case as a point of principle.

The case also decided, rightly, that matches themselves cannot be subject to copyright at all.  However, certain ‘extra’ elements can, e.g. graphics and broadcasting of the Premier anthem for instance.  It is of course a complex technical subject and the FA and Sky lawyers are, I suspect, working feverishly on how to present a new package which will comply with EU law.

However, with all the bad press the EU gets, it’s nice to hear of a judgement that a lot of people will identify and agree with, being a rare victory for the man (or in this case woman) in the street against powerful institutions and commercial interests.

Click here for the full press release on the case from the European Court.

Anthony Wooding
Litigation Department, Kerseys

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