No Free Trade for Satellite TV

 Subscription to EU channels whilst in the UK



17th March
2008
  

So Much for the Common Market...

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Euro TV card suppliers under threat of jail

Nova TV logo A foreign satellite supplier has pleaded guilty to four offences relating to breaches of the copyright and fraud act in a landmark case at Mold Crown Court.

Mark Ronald Elsdon of foreign satellite supplier Digisales has been remanded on bail until 11 April for pre-sentence reports but Judge Mervyn Hughes warned a custodial sentence could be on the cards.

Elsdon was the first supplier to be arrested back in July following a raid on his premises by Conwy police and trading standards.

He faced 18 counts of offences against the Copyright Designs & Patents Act, Fraud Act and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Elsdon pleaded guilty to four specimen counts of supplying unauthorised ART (North African) decoder cards and four specimen counts of offering unauthorised Nova (Greek) decoder cards for sale for receiving Premier League football.

Judge Hughes said it was extremely unfortunate and ill advised for Elsdon to have sought the advice of the European Satellite Television Association (Esta).

A Premier League spokesman said: This sends out a clear message to the trade that supplying cards as well as using them is illegal. It also confirms that Esta and its propaganda message should be disregarded.

 

22nd March
2008
  

Update: Illegal Tackle...

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Exploring the legality of subscribing to a foreign satellite service

Nova TV logo The final part of licensee Karen Murphy’s foreign satellite football appeal will be heard on 25 and 26 June.

High Court judges will hear arguments on the legality of screening football in pubs using foreign satellite systems under European competition law.

Judges ruled against Murphy last December, saying the satellite signal was broadcast from England and the fee payable was to Sky and not Greek channel Nova.

But Murphy’s team were told they could argue their case under European competition law at a later date.

The cases are being prosecuted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which centres on whether the publican dishonestly receives a programme provided from a place in the UK, with intent to avoid payment of any charge applicable to the reception of the programme.

The installers say that their clients are not avoiding making a payment because they are paying the European broadcasters - and in any case, have no charge to avoid since there is no UK broadcaster providing games live at 3pm on a Saturday.

 

20th April
2008
  

Update: So Much for Free Trade...

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Euro TV card supplier given suspended jail sentence

Nova TV logo The boss of a firm that supplied foreign satellite football systems to pubs has been given a 10-month suspended sentence.

Mark Elsdon of Digisales was also ordered to do 150 hours unpaid work and pay £6,000 costs at Caernarfon Crown Court.

In March, Elsdon pleaded guilty to four offences relating to breaches of the copyright and fraud act in a landmark case at Mold Crown Court.

Elsdon was the first supplier to be arrested back in July following a raid on his premises by Conwy police and trading standards.

He faced 18 counts of offences against the Copyright Designs & Patents Act, Fraud Act and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Elsdon pleaded guilty to four specimen counts of supplying unauthorised ART (North African) decoder cards and four specimen counts of offering unauthorised Nova (Greek) decoder cards for sale for receiving Premier League football.

Judge Hughes told the court in March that the offences were serious and crossed the threshold for a custodial sentence.

 

16th May
2008
  

Update: Premier High Court Case...

Judgement reserved in foreign satellite subscription case

Premier League logoThe Judge in the landmark High Court legal battle between the Premier League and foreign satellite suppliers QC Leisure and AV Station has retired to consider his verdict.

The Premier League is seeking a ban on importing, selling, hiring, advertising, installing and maintaining decoders.

The defendants deny breaking copyright law and claim that the attempt to stop them selling the decoder cards is in breach of the EC Treaty, which guarantees the right of free trade between member states.

It is not known when Mr Justice Kitchin will deliver his verdict.

 

30th June
2008
  

Update: Win Takes Bar Owners United into Europe...

The case to use foreign viewing cards moved to European Court

Premier League logo Pubs and bars fighting Sky's monopoly on Premiere League football coverage will get to air their complaints on a European stage.

A group of bar owners is fighting for the right to use overseas viewing cards to show Premiere League football games, which cost far less than Sky's commercial subscriptions.

Bar owners claim Sky's commercial subs are too costly, and claim Sky is operating a monopoly.

Sky and the FA Premiere League have prosecuted several bar owners recently, usually for using DigitAlb cards which cost less than one-tenth of a commercial subscription. The FA has also acted against importers of foreign satellite equipment and cards.

It's not illegal to use an overseas card for private viewing, but in a commercial premises it usually goes against the original terms an conditions of the subscription.

Chris Forrester, of Rapid TV News, said: The defendants in the case have argued that, under European single market rules, the FAPL is not entitled to stop the decoder cards being imported to the UK.

In the London High Court of Justice, Mr Justice Kitchin agreed to the defendants' request to have the case referred to the European Court of Justice. The judge told the Court that he tended to agree with the points of law argued by the defendants. A win for the pubs and bars would inevitably lead to a significant loss of income for BSkyB."

 

23rd July
2008
  

Update: Ms Murphy Goes to Europe...

Europe to decide on the legality of geographical restrictions to satellite subscriptions.

Premier League logo Karen Murphy of the Red, White & Blue pub in Portsmouth, has appealed against her conviction for screening Premiership football via Greek channel Nova Supersport.

But Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Mr Justice Barling decided to refer the case to the European court.

The case against foreign satellite suppliers AV Station and QC Leisure has also been referred to Europe.

The written judgement said: If the geographical restriction is held to be unlawful, it may be difficult to see why the subscription charge exacted by BSkyB for its service (to which the Appellant did not subscribe) should be treated as ‘applicable' to the Nova programme screened by the Appellant.

If it is not so applicable then the offence under s. 297(1) would not be established. This may need to be the subject of further argument depending on the outcome of the reference which we propose to make.


Section 297 (1) states that a programme has been received dishonestly with intent to avoid payment of any charge applicable.

Murphy's lawyer Paul Dixon, of Molesworth Bright and Clegg, claimed it was a powerful judgement. The FA Premier League should immediately abandon its campaign of criminal prosecutions against honest, decent and hardworking publicans who purchase and use legitimate European satellite television decoder cards in their pubs.

However, a Premier League spokesman said the prosecutions would continue: The use of foreign satellite equipment has not been legitimised. Lord Justice Pumfrey's December judgment remains valid as does the use of section 297. It remains the case that Mrs Murphy has been found guilty of a criminal offence.

When the European Court has reached a decision the matter will then have to return to the High Court here for a decision after which it will be open to either side to mount appeals. The process could take up to two years.

 

26th September
2008
  

Update: Sky High Prices...

Parliament meeting about Sky prices and legality of subscription to foreign TV

Sky logo The cost of Sky for pubs and the current legal situation around foreign satellites will be debated during a meeting in Parliament next month.

MP John Grogan is hosting the meeting in the Palace of Westminster on October 20.

Speakers at the event will be Nick Bish and Kate Nicholls from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers and lawyer Paul Dixon, a partner at legal firm Molesworth Bright Clegg.

Dixon has represented Portsmouth licensee Karen Murphy, who has had her appeal against a conviction for screening foreign satellite football referred to Europe.

Grogan, who previously hosted a meeting for the European Satellite TV Association (ESTA) in July last year, said: A number of MPs have been lobbied over the Parliamentary recess by publicans regarding the issue of the cost of installing Sky TV in licensed premises.

With the forthcoming court cases in Europe and the report of OfCom into the Pay TV market due by Christmas, I thought it was an appropriate time to raise the issue.

 

23rd October
2008
  

Update: David and Goliath Retold on Satellite TV...

Media multinationals line up against publican subscribing to Greek Nova TV for football

European Court UEFA and four major media companies could get involved in the European test case showdown on foreign satellite football – now likely to be heard around June or July next year.

The European football body has lodged an application with the European Court of Justice to intervene in the case against two suppliers of foreign satellite equipment, according to the solicitor acting for one of the suppliers.

Meanwhile Sky, Setanta, Canal+ and the Motion Picture Association are believed to be in the process of lodging an application with the court to also have their say in the case.

The case against suppliers QC Leisure and AV Station was referred to the European Court in July by the High Court in London.

Portsmouth licensee Karen Murphy, who is appealing a conviction for showing foreign satellite football using a Greek Nova card, will have her case heard at the same time.

At a House of Commons meeting hosted by John Grogan MP yesterday, Paul Dixon, of legal firm Molesworths, Bright, Clegg, who represents Murphy and AV Station, revealed the five other parties were applying to intervene in our proceedings so they can have their 30 minutes of fame, because it's not just about sports rights.

Kate Nicholls of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers also addressed the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group meeting, looking at the legal and regulatory issues around screening sport in pubs. Nicholls  urged everyone to respond to a further consultation on the issue, which ends December 9.

 

25th January
2009
  

Update: Premier League vs Free Trade...

Football authority worries that Euro free trade may actually exist afterall

European Court of JusticeThe Premier League will this summer face a potentially devastating challenge in the European courts, after lawyers said there was a strong possibility that the little-noticed case would undermine the principle that UK landlords must pay Sky or Setanta for the right to show live football in their pubs.

Legal experts said that the case, the latest round of a long-running battle with publicans over showing overseas broadcasts, could overturn the basis on which the Premier League sells its TV rights.

Last year, the high court passed a test case involving several UK publicans to the European Court of Justice for advice. It is due to reach a decision by the summer.

European law prevents pirated decoder cards being used to access broadcasts illegally. But the publicans will argue that their decoders were legitimately bought in Greece and imported by a distributor. Under free-trade laws, they will argue that they should be allowed to import decoders and cards from other member states. Lawyers at Denton Wilde Sapte said the challenge was significant.

The firm's senior associate Alex Haffner said: The strong possibility of the ECJ and the UK high court finding in favour of the publicans is a direct challenge to the right to license media rights on a territory-by-territory basis and to the willingness of pay-TV operators to pay handsomely for exclusive rights within their markets.

The Premier League is expected to argue that if the ECJ finds in favour of the publicans it would destabilise the market and disadvantage consumers. It is expected to argue that the devices are obtained using false names, and point to links with organised crime. If it were to lose the case, then not only would pubs be able to avoid paying an average of ฃ9,000 a season to showSky and Setanta matches, with a knock-on effect on the amount broadcasters were prepared to pay.

Based on article from morningadvertiser.co.uk

But in the meantime it's the enforcers that are adopting the intimidatory language of organised crime.

Anti-money laundering laws will be used to pursue foreign satellite suppliers that let pubs show football, under new plans. That’s according to a new chief at the agency that probes the screenings in pubs. Retired policeman David Eyles also revealed that prosecutions are currently being brought against up to 30 licensees for screening games via foreign satellites.

Eyles, operations director at Media Protection Services (MPS), was the director of operations at the Metropolitan Police Clubs and Vice Unit until December. Eyles said the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 will be used to trace and seize assets from foreign satellite suppliers, if licensee Karen Murphy loses her case at the European Court of Justice (ECJ). To use the 2002 Act, it must be shown that income from suppliers was generated by criminal activity. He said the process of prosecuting licensees is on-going, with case papers being brought against around 30 hosts for using non-EU cards to screen games last football season.

MPS boss Ray Hoskin said there were plans to recruit others with similar background to Eyles.

 

4th February
2011
  

Update: Premier League Doesn't Understand EU Offside Rules...

European Court suggestion that free trade law allows subscription to mainland European TV services

European Court of Justice Pub landlord Karen Murphy is defending her right to show English Premier League matches in her pub using a fully paid up subscription to Greek satellite TV.

In a decision that could change the way sports rights are sold across the continent, the European court of justice was advised that forbidding pubs from buying in cheap football coverage from overseas operators was incompatible with European free trade laws.

Murphy was taken to court by a company representing the league over her decision to import a Greek decoder to show the games rather than paying Sky, which holds the rights in the UK. She has fought the case all the way to the highest European court.

Juliane Kokott, one of the eight advocate generals of the European court of justice, advised that selling on a territory-by-territory basis represented a serious impairment of freedom to provide services , adding that the economic exploitation of the [TV] rights is  not undermined by the use of foreign decoder cards as the corresponding charges have been paid for those cards .

Because Murphy had paid the legitimate rights holder in Greece, she was entitled to receive its satellite broadcasts. Whilst those charges are not as high as the charges imposed in the UK there is ... no specific right to charge different prices for a work in each member state, Kokott said. Selling on a basis of territorial exclusivity was tantamount to profiting from the elimination of the internal market .

Kokott's opinion is not binding, but the Luxembourg court usually follows the advice of advocate generals. The court is expected to deliver its verdict later this year. As well as the criminal case against Murphy, civil cases against two importers of the decoder cards are being considered in parallel.

 

3rd April
2011
  

Update: Moving Forward for a Shot at the Goal of Free Trade...

Conviction quashed for showing pub football via a foreign satellite TV subscription

Old BaileyIn March last year, Gregory Turner, of the Golden Cup pub in Burton-On-Trent, was ordered to pay £ 19,294 in costs after losing his initial appeal over a £ 500 fine for showing football using a foreign satellite TV subscription.

On 1st March this year, the High Court quashed both the original conviction and a subsequent decision by Stafford Crown Court confirming the conviction. Both courts were ordered to repay to Turner everything he had paid by way of fines and costs.

High Court judges ruled that Stafford Crown Court had not considered the impact of EU law on the case. The long-running Karen Murphy case is currently being considered by judges at the European Court of Justice.

Although, Turner had been using Arab Radio and Television (ART) Network to screen games, he argued that ART were also trading in Italy.

 

9th February
2012

 Offsite Article: The Final Whistle...

High court confirms pubs' rights to screen football matches on foreign TV services but still allows some copyright restrictions to be imposed, eg if an admission charge is made

See article from thelawyer.com

 

25th February
2012
  

Update: Karen Murphy Wins Appeal Case...

UK courts follow up on the European Court decision over the legality of pubs showing football on foreign channels

Old BaileyA pub landlady has won her court fight with the English Premier League over using a Greek TV decoder to screen games.

Karen Murphy has paid nearly £ 8,000 in fines and costs for using the cheaper decoder in her Portsmouth pub to bypass controls over match screening.

But she took her case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). It found partly in her favour, and now the High Court in London has also found in her favour.

Instead of using Sky, on which it costs £ 700 a month to see Premier League matches, she used the Greek TV station Nova, which has the rights to screen the games in Greece, and which cost her £ 800 a year.

The High Court in London on Friday ruled that Karen Murphy's appeal over using the decoder to bypass controls over match screening must be allowed.

The ECJ said last autumn that national laws that prohibit the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards were contrary to the freedom to provide services.

The European judges also said the Premier League could not claim copyright over Premier League matches as they could not be considered to be an author's own intellectual creation and, therefore, to be works for the purposes of EU copyright law.

However the Premier League and co are allowed to claim copyright control over titles, logos and promotional videos etc shown around the football action. Presumably if the Greek service relays the Premier League programme then it could effectively be banned from commercial use in pubs in just the same way as Sky's home subscriber sports channels are banned.

On the positive side it does mean that there can be no legal issue with private householders subscribing to foreign channels as there are no commercial compexities.

 


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