Premier League rights case reaches ECJ

The Premier League has embarked on a long-awaited court action to prove pubs using foreign signals to show English Premier League games are breaking the law.

Karen Murphy, a Portsmouth landlady purchased a Greek system through an importer and paid an annual subscription. The Premier League, which sells its rights exclusively to Sky in the UK, said she was breaking the law but her lawyers claim its position contravenes the EC Treaty that guarantees free trade between member states.

The Premier League is seeking a ban on the import, sale, installation and use of the decoders. The Premier League is waiting for the determination of the ECJ before resuming its campaign to stop pubs showing matches on a Saturday afternoon. In most high streets up and down the country fans can currently watch matches on a Saturday afternoon via overseas satellite broadcasts.

A briefing document from the Judge Rapporteur stated that articles 28 and 49 of European competition law ban restrictions on imports and services among EU states. But it also included submissions from the British government, which argued that the Premier League’s ability to sell its rights on a territory by territory basis was “part of the essential function of its copyright”.

A similar case, launched by Uefa and BSkyB against another importer of decoders, is also due to be heard by the ECJ but does not yet have a court date.

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