The six main UK-based Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are to be forced to block access to one of the biggest illegal live football-streaming sites in the country.
The High Court has ruled that the First Row Sports platform was acting jointly with third party streaming services to offer live footage of Premier League matches in breach of the League’s copyright. The League said Section 97A of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 has been used previously by the music and film industries to secure protection from illegal streaming sites, but this is the first time that a sporting body has sought an order blocking a site that infringes its copyright. It is also the first time that an order has been granted against a website that facilitates access to other illegal streaming sites.
On the news of the ruling a Premier League spokesman said:
“We are extremely pleased that the order blocking this website has been granted and we will be enforcing it, in conjunction with the ISPs, ahead of the 2013-14 Barclays Premier League season. It is absolutely imperative that content industries are afforded protection under the law if they are to continue investing in the sort of quality talent and facilities that has made them successful and of interest in the first place. The judgment recognises the parasitic nature of the enterprise; this was an out and out commercial operation with estimated revenues of up to £10 million a year, whilst giving nothing back to the sport. The content industries are playing an increasingly significant role in the UK economy, so it is pleasing to see that the courts recognise this and prevent continued abuses of copyright.”
The development comes as the Premier League’s hugely lucrative new set of UK rights deals come into effect this season. The League secured a huge 70% rise in the value of its domestic broadcast rights in June 2012, with BSkyB and BT splashing out a combined £3.018 billion in an agreement spanning the 2013-14 and 2015-16 seasons.
The ruling by Mr Justice Arnold also made clear that any pubs using First Row Sports to screen Premier League matches would also be in breach of copyright. The Premier League spokesman added:
“The Premier League will be significantly upping its enforcement activity in this area in the coming months, so any publican who is being offered a service that is not either BSkyB or BT Vision should be aware that these are illegal and they open themselves up to the possibility of prosecution.”