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Premier League punishes pirate publicans: Non-Sky and BT systems still verboten

Premier League-instigated prosecutions have seen publicans using non-UK satellite TV systems to broadcast live football hit with fines worth thousands of pounds.  

Since the season kicked off, 12 pubs, the great majority of them situated in the north of England, have been ordered to pay fines worth a total of £92,603 to the FA Premier League for breach of copyright. 

In a separate prosecution, the Premier League has also clawed back £125,000 in damages from an unnamed supplier of illegal TV systems to British pubs. 

Following the launch of BT Sport back in 2013 and a landmark ruling from the European Court of Justice, the Premier League announced that it was going to get tough on publicans playing fast and loose with the law.

An unscripted live event – like a football match – can’t be copyrighted, but things like graphics, team icons, and background music can. Because it’s these parts of a broadcast that are considered to be the intellectual property of the Premier League, several landlords in the north east of England were caught using logo-masking technology in an attempt to avoid prosecution. 

A Premier League spokesperson is quoted saying that this sort of approach won’t wash with legal eagles: “These cases provide further evidence for the pub trade that using illegal foreign broadcast systems to show Premier League football is extremely risky. 

“Injunctions and significant costs awards are regularly being made in the Premier League’s favour in the High Court, and two suppliers of systems which facilitated illegal broadcasts being made in pubs have been jailed in the last year. 

“We would advise all publicans to ignore the lies peddled by suppliers who make false claims about the legality of foreign broadcasts of our matches, and to contact Sky Sports and BT Sport as they are both authorised to show live Premier League football in commercial premises in the UK.”

As well as avoiding having to pay Sky and BT for live Premier League football, an added draw of using a foreign satellite TV system is that most of them carry coverage of games that are ringfenced from broadcast in the UK. 

Mainly it’s Saturday games that kick off on 3pm that are blocked from broadcast, although Sky’s recently inked a deal that’ll see near-live highlights of these and other games coming to Sky Sports as of next season. 

The 3pm kick off ringfence is a contentious issue for football fans. Media and telecoms regulator Ofcom is considering repealing this ancient rule, which has been in place since the 1960s. 


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