By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom
The English Premier League – the world’s most popular football league – continues its war against pirates engaged in the illegal streaming of its football matches and has won another significant legal battle.
The League has obtained another order from the English High Court requiring UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block people from illegally watching its matches.
This order, similar to a previous one made by Mr Justice Arnold in the High Court in March of this year, requires Virgin Media, Sky, BT and TalkTalk (the biggest ISPs in the UK) to block people from watching illegal streams; however, the previous order only related to the final two months of the 2016-17 football season, whilst the latest order applies to the whole of the 2017-18 English Premier League season. This kicks off in less than three weeks’ time.
The previous order was covered in a story you can read by clicking here
; and, since that order, more than 5,000 server IP addresses have been blocked from streaming Premier League content. This figure, however, appears to be low and it is expected that the League and the TV rights holders will want to see an increase in this figure for the forthcoming season.
Following the latest High Court success, Kevin Plumb, director of legal services at the League, stated:
“This blocking order is a game-changer in our efforts to tackle the supply and use of illicit streams of our content. It will quickly and effectively block and disrupt the illegal broadcast of Premier League football via any means, including so called ‘pre-loaded kodi boxes’
“The protection of our copyright, and the investment made by our broadcast partners, is hugely important to the Premier League and the future health of English football
The English Premier League has been on a relentless campaign in recent months to stop people from watching its matches illegally.
The most widespread problem for the League is the use of ‘Kodi boxes’ to watch games. Kodi software is not illegal, but, when installed on an Internet Protocol TV box (“IPTV), a user can stream football through an internet connection and avoid paying a subscription fee to Sky Sports or BT Sport.
This is a major problem because Sky and BT Sport paid a combined record £5.14 billion to cover the Premier League for three seasons, commencing with the 2016-17 season. Sky and BT Sport need to make sure that consumers cannot watch Premier League games without paying a subscription, otherwise their investment in the TV rights will see a lower return.
In fact, apart from all this, Sky’s profits, for the year ended June 2017, were down 6% year on year, partly attributable to the high cost of screening live English Premier League football.