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Premiership piracy blocked by judge’s decision
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03 Sep 2019 / courts Print

Premiership piracy is blocked by judge’s decision

William Fry has issued a briefing note on Ireland's first court order preventing the illegal viewing of Premier League matches.

The Commercial Court heard the Premier League action against five of Ireland's major internet service providers: Virgin Media, Sky Ireland, Sky Subscribers Services, Vodafone and Eir.

The order compels the ISPs to block the illegal live streaming of Premier League matches.

Illegal broadcasting has grown in recent years with the use of set-top boxes pre-loaded with streaming apps.

One Premier League club has estimated that illegal streaming costs removes £1m of sponsorship value from each premiership match.

Blocking orders from the High Court of England and Wales compelled ISP server blocking which shut down 175,000 illegal streams during the 2018/19 season.

Similar injunctions were granted in other countries such as Singapore and the Netherlands before the Premier League brought its application before the Commercial Court in Ireland.

This was the first application heard by an Irish court targeting the servers that host the streams, rather than the streaming websites or end users themselves, the William Fry briefing explains.

Legal Basis

Rightsholders such as the Premier League are protected under Article 8(3) of Directive 2001/29/EC (the Copyright Directive) which harmonises copyright in the information society.

The right of the Premier League to apply for an injunction in these circumstances is reiterated in Article 11 of Directive 2004/48/EC (the IP Enforcement Directive).

In the Commercial Court, Mr Justice Haughton referred to the previous Court of Appeal Sony Music judgment which sets the relevant legal test as follows:

  • it must be necessary,
  • the costs involved must not be excessive or disproportionate and the order itself should not be unduly complicated,
  • the cost sharing proposals must be fair and reasonable,
  • the order must respect the fundamental rights of the parties affected, including internet users and
  • the duration of the order and the provisions for review must be reasonable.

Mr Justice Haughton granted a blocking order to the end of the 2019/2020 season, with liberty to the Premier League to apply on or before then to renew the blocking order for next season.

Illegal content will now be targeted and blocked in real time by ISPs. The most recent Premier League broadcasting deal was reportedly valued at £8.8 billion over a three-year period.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland