Premier league infringement claims fail

Posted: 24th December 2012

Copyright infringement actions, arising out of the widespread use of foreign decoder cards to access foreign transmissions of live Premier League football matches within the United Kingdom, have failed in respect of film works after the Court of Appeal ruled that suppliers of the cards and their publican clients have a complete defence by virtue of section 72(1) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (the act).

Football Association Premier League Limited (FAPL) had launched proceedings against several pub licensees, alleging that copyright works had been performed, played and shown in public contrary to section 19 of the act and communicated to the public in breach of section 20. It was also claimed that suppliers of foreign decoder cards had authorised such infringements by publicans.Football2

However, in dismissing FAPL’s appeal against a High Court ruling to like effect, the court ruled that the ‘clear and unambiguous’ wording of section 72(1) allowed of only one interpretation. That section provides that the showing in public of a broadcast or cable programme to an audience who have not paid for admission does not amount to an infringement of copyright.

FAPL’s lawyers had argued that the existence of such a complete defence was contrary to parliament’s intention and that section 72(1) should be interpreted narrowly so as to reflect wider copyright protections afforded under European law. However, given the clarity of the section’s wording, the court ruled that ‘such a conforming interpretation would go beyond the principles of legitimate statutory interpretation’.