Licensees fined for Sky Sports copyright infringement

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Following successful legal action taken by Sky, licensees of four premises in the northeast and northwest of England have been found to be infringing Sky’s copyright by showing Sky Sports without having the required commercial agreements.

As a result of civil proceedings in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court, Martin Adamson of The Bay Horse Hotel, Leeds, has been ordered to pay damages and costs totalling of £26,495 (€30,000). Kathleen Jones, licensee of the Junction Hotel, Pontefract, has been ordered to pay damages and costs of £19,239, Mary Sherwin licensee of The Bridge, South Shields, has been ordered to pay damages and costs of £18,889 and Domineque Toulson, licensee of The Nags Head, Manchester, has been ordered to pay damages and costs of £28,988.  In addition to this, all licensees listed have been ordered to pay interest of 2 per cent per annum on the amount owed.

“Orders like these demonstrate the seriousness of screening Sky Sports without the required commercial licences,” noted George Lawson, head of commercial piracy at Sky. “It is damaging to the industry, and those licensees who choose to show content in this way should be aware that they are at a high risk of being caught and facing substantial penalties.”

“Our customers are very important to us and we will not hesitate in taking action against pubs who continue to screen Sky Sports fraudulently, ensuring that the thousands of the law-abiding pubs and clubs who pay for legitimate commercial Sky subscriptions are not short changed.”

In a separate case, Geraldine Williams and Anthony Williams, licensees of the Cleveland Inn, Middlesbrough, were found guilty after a trial of six offences each of dishonest reception of a television transmission by showing Sky Sports to customers without a commercial agreement from Sky.

They were each fined £1,000 per offence and were also ordered to pay £100 Victim Surcharge and £3,500 prosecution costs totalling £9,600 each and £19,200 overall.

UK intellectual property protection organisation FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) brought the criminal prosecution at Teesside Magistrates Court against the licensees for showing Sky Sports to customers without having valid commercial viewing agreements in place. Sky Sports is only available to licensed premises in the UK via a commercial viewing agreement from Sky Business. Licensees that show Sky broadcasts without a commercial viewing agreement risk similar action or even a criminal prosecution.

“These cases should send a clear warning to pub owners and licensees who show Sky broadcasts without a commercial subscription,” stated Stephen Gerrard, Prosecuting Manager, FACT. “If convicted, fines for this offence are unlimited and you may have to pay substantial legal costs, as well as putting yourself at risk of having your licence suspended or revoked.”

“It’s important to us that businesses are aware of the consequences of showing Sky Sports illegally – it is a serious issue that is damaging to the pub industry, and those licensees who choose to televise content in this way should be aware that they are at high risk of being caught and face substantial penalties,” added Sky’s Lawson.

“We actively visit thousands of pubs every season to monitor the games they are showing and continue to support FACT’s work to protect hardworking Sky customers who are unfairly losing business due to this illegal activity”.

This successful case comes from FACT’s instruction to Russell-Cooke LLP. Working with FACT forms a key part of Sky’s commitment to protecting pubs and clubs who invest in legitimate Sky Sports subscriptions. Sky is committed to visiting every licensed premises reported by other publicans and/or organisations for illegally showing Sky and has made arrangements to visit hundreds of pubs each week in towns and cities across the UK this year.


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