A pub landlady has won the latest stage of her fight to air Premier League games in Britain, using a foreign TV decoder. Karen Murphy has been fined several times for using a Greek decoder in her Portsmouth pub to bypass controls but she refused to give up and took the case to the European Court of Justice. The ECJ has ruled that national laws which prohibit the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards are contrary to the freedom to provide services in the European Union. The ruling concluded that legislation, which bans the use of foreign decoders, cannot “be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums”.
The ECJ ruling will now be considered by the High Court in London, which had asked for guidance. It would be a surprise if the British court decided to overrule a European decision. The decision will have a big effect on soccer as the Premier League will need to rethink its exclusive agreements with Sky Sports and ESPN. The knock-on effect of such a decision will be important for F1 fans in Britain as Sky will have no right to stop British viewers getting a foreign decoder card and watching the Grands Prix. One idea that fans seem to like the idea of is to have pictures from abroad but commentary provided free by BBC Radio Five Live. There are still disputes over what a sports body can claim as its own. The ECJ said that elements of each broadcast, such as the opening credits, highlights and graphics are protected by copyright, but said that live action cannot be claimed because it is not the creator of the action. There is a legal dispute still to be had over what happens if a promoter puts their logo onscreen all the time.