UEFA, the governing body of European football, has been granted a UK High Court injunction aimed at tackling illicit streaming of matches. Mr Justice Arnold made an order against the six main retail internet service providers (ISPs) in the UK (British Telecommunications PLC, EE Limited, Plusnet PLC, Sky UK Limited, TalkTalk Telecom Limited and Virgin Media Limited).
The judge said that UEFA’s claim was for an injunction “requiring” the service providers “to take measures to block, or at least impede, access by their customers to streaming servers which deliver infringing live streams of UEFA competition matches to UK consumers”.
He noted that the UEFA competitions were very popular with television viewers in the UK, with the Champions League final attracting several million viewers. “UEFA’s evidence establishes that it owns the copyright in television broadcasts of all matches in the UEFA competitions, and in films (particularly replays), artistic works and musical works which are incorporated within those broadcasts,” he advised, adding that BT had since 2013 been the exclusive licensee of the rights to broadcast and transmit the UEFA competitions in the UK. “The rights are very valuable. BT currently pays approximately £360 million [€405m] each season for these rights together with the rights in respect of the UEFA Super Cup.
The need for such orders had been emphasised by further evidence which had become available as to the scale of the problem of illicit streaming, according to the judge, who drew attention to the Cracking Down on Digital Piracy report from the Federation Against Copyright Theft in September 2017, which quoted the UK Intellectual Property Office as saying that it believed that, at a conservative estimate, a million set-top boxes with software added to them to facilitate illegal streaming had been sold in the UK in the last couple of years.
The order will take effect on February 13th 2018 and last until May 26th.