Pub Landlady Wins TV Football Fight

Pub landlady Karen Murphy has won her European court battle against the Premier League over the use of a foreign TV decoder to screen games.

The European Court of Justice said an exclusive system of licences for the broadcasting of football matches in different EU countries - effectively stopping fans watching the broadcasts with a decoder card in other member states - is ''contrary to EU law''.

But today's verdict also warned:

''The screening in a pub of football-match broadcasts containing protected works requires the authorisation of the author of those works.''

Such ''protected works'', said the judges, could include the opening video sequence or the Premier League anthem, which is a matter for copyright.

Ms Murphy was ordered to pay almost #8,000 in fines and costs after she was taken to court by the League for using a Greek decoder in her Portsmouth pub to screen matches, avoiding the League's own controls over where its matches are screened.

But the she took her case to the Luxembourg court which said today that some UK pubs had started using foreign decoder cards, issued by a Greek broadcaster to subscribers resident in Greece, to access Premier League matches.

The pubs buy a card and a decoder box from a dealer at prices lower than those of Sky, the holder of the UK broadcasting rights.

The judgment delivered today said:

''The Court of Justice holds 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 either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums.''

The judges said that, in trying to justify its restrictions, the Premier League could not claim copyright over Premier League matches themselves, as such sporting events could not be considered to be an author's own ''intellectual creation'' and, therefore, to be ''works'' for the purposes of EU copyright law.

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