Premier League crack down on unauthorised broadcasts in Welsh pubs

Posted by Sarah Whittle on
Welsh football team managers are not the only people facing scrutiny at the moment – given the recent crack down by the Premier League on unlicensed broadcasts of Premier League matches in pubs in Cardiff and Swansea, it’s a tough time for a lot of pub landlords and managers. Many pubs now find themselves unable to show the matches and facing expensive legal action from the Premier League.

Given the surge of interest in Wales in the Premier League in recent years, thanks to the promotion of both Swansea and Cardiff, the Premier League has hired a private investigation firm to visit pubs in South Wales showing Premier League matches to check that they are doing so legally. Since Autumn 2013, the private investigation firm has visited nearly 200 pubs in South Wales and is planning legal action against a number of them.

First in the firing line was Rhyddings pub in Swansea, who found themselves in Court last week. The pub showed live Premier League matches using a satellite card issued by a Danish broadcaster.

In 2011, Karen Murphy, a landlady in Portsmouth, won a Court case against the Premier League when the Court ruled that it is legal to buy a TV subscription from anywhere within the EU. However, this alone was insufficient to save the landlord of the Rhyddings pub, as the pictures obtained from the Danish broadcaster depicted the Premier League’s logo. The Premier League own copyright in their distinctive logo, and these pictures could not be shown by the landlord of the Rhyddings pub without infringing the Premier League’s copyright in their logo.

Further issues were caused by the fact that the satellite card obtained by the Landlord was only authorised for use within a private home, and not in commercial premises such as this pub.

The case did not even go to trial. The Judge last week decided that there was no real prospect of successfully defending the Premier League’s claim and therefore this matter could be concluded without a trial.

Mr Luxton, the landlord of the Rhyddings pub, now faces a huge legal bill, finding himself responsible for not only his own legal costs, but those of the Premier League. He has been ordered to pay £65,000 to the Premier League immediately on account of their costs, and could face a final bill from the Premier League of up to £125,000. Given that the Premier League’s claim only related to football matches screened over a four month period, there can be no doubt that the costs of the legal action will far outweigh any benefit derived.

With levels of interest in Welsh football set to peak this weekend with a Swansea v Cardiff derby scheduled for Saturday, the demand for Premier League showings in pubs will increase. However, so will the likely examination of the licensing arrangements the pubs have in place for these broadcasts.

The Premier League is planning up to 100 similar legal actions against establishments across England and Wales this season and managers of businesses showing premier league matches need to make sure:

  • They are receiving their pictures of the match from an authorised provider – only Sky Sports and BT Sport are authorised to broadcast live Premier League football in pubs in the UK
  • That the subscription they have with the broadcaster reflects that they are a business, allowing them to show the matches to the public, and is not a domestic subscription
  • If they are receiving pictures from elsewhere within the EU, the Premier Logo and the Premier League anthem cannot be shown without infringing the Premier League’s copyright (however, the Premier League is confident that its copyrighted content cannot be separated from the live pictures and are confident that they can take action against anyone obtaining pictures from outside the UK).

Blake Morgan is able to offer expert advice in these matters should you find yourself threatened with action from the Premier League. As well as expertise in copyright law, we are also able to offer advice and representation in criminal investigations and prosecutions.

About the Author

Sarah is a Senior Associate in the Cardiff Litigation and Dispute Resolution Team who advises both private and public sector clients on a wide range of commercial and public law disputes.

Sarah Whittle
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029 2068 6135

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