There could be implications for the TV and film industries from today’s European Court of Justice’s ruling that said a UK pub landlord didn’t breach UK copyright laws because she used a set top box decoder card to access TV content from Greece.
The court ruled that Karen Murphy was cleared to use a decoder to tap into a Greek station to view Premier League football matches in her Portsmouth Pub – but the court noted that she could not broadcast that content to her customers. Originally she had been fined £8,000 for breaching UK copyright laws, but she appealed that decision and the case was referred to the European Court of Justice.
This case is specifically about Premier League football games and how they are sold across Europe, but experts say it could also influence how TV and film rights are carved up among territories (including film finance via pre-sales to multiple territories).
Writing in The Times, Stephen Garrett, Chairman, Kudos Film and TV and Executive Chairman, Shine Pictures noted: “High quality entertainment is not cheap and as a producer, Kudos has effectively to mortgage these territorial rights in order to secure the upfront funding to make the show in the first place…The incentive for broadcasters to make this investment is the guarantee that they will be the only one screening the film on their turf when it is released, which means maximum ratings and advertising revenues. Without it why would they bother to invest? Scrap this principle, implement ‘Murphy’s law’ with rights sold on a pan European basis and smaller companies will be squeezed out of the market.”
Tony Ballard, partner at law firm Harbottle & Lewis, argued that there had been an overreaction over this specific case: “The Court held that the showing of a broadcast in a pub without consent is itself an infringement of copyright. Rights holders may therefore yet see off the pubs and the biter may yet be bit. This is because the pub is perfectly free to get itself a decoder card from a Greek broadcaster, which the Court has ruled is a single market issue, but if they use the card in the pub then that is a copyright issue. In other words, the landlady can’t use the card to show Premier League football to customers, but only for her private use.”