Case C-403/08 and C-429/08 FA Premier League v QC Leisure; Karen Murphy v Media Protection Ltd
The Premier League sold exclusive rights to the live broadcasting of its football matches on a territorial basis. However, certain pubs in the UK purchased satellite decoders and subscription services from broadcasters established in Greece and certain other states. They were able to do this at a price lower than that charged by Sky, the UK rights holder, and were able to broadcast a greater number of live matches. The Premier League case arose from civil proceedings brought by the Premier League against the suppliers of such decoder cards to pubs. The Karen Murphy case arose from criminal proceedings brought against Karen Murphy, the landlady of a pub which screened Premier League matches using a Greek decoder card.
In its ruling the ECJ held that national legislation which prohibits the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services and cannot be justified by the objective of protecting intellectual property rights. Furthermore, a system of exclusive broadcasting licences is contrary to the EU competition rules if the licence agreement contains an absolute prohibition on the sale of decoder cards to viewers in other Member States. However, the Court also held that certain elements of the broadcast, such as the Premier League anthem and recorded programmes of highlights of recent matches, are protected by copyright and that the authorisation of the author of these elements is required before they can be broadcast by a pub to the public.
This is an important ruling by the ECJ which addresses the balance to be struck between intellectual property rights, on the one hand, and by the free movement and competition provisions of the Treaty, on the other. It is expected to have significant consequences for broadcasting and exploitation of media content in general in the European Union.
The judgment is here.
Nicholas Green QC and Aidan Robertson QC represented the FA Premier League and Nicholas Green QC, Helen Davies QC and Aidan Robertson QC represented Media Protection Limited.
Marie Demetriou represented Karen Murphy and QC Leisure.
Jemima Stratford QC represented the United Kingdom Government.