Tuesday, October 4, 2011

ECJ Reaffirms Principle of Free Movement of Goods, Services & People With Respect to Television Broadcasts

This week, the European Court of Justice reaffirmed the core principle of the foundation of the European Union: the free movement of goods, services and people across national borders.

The ruling trumps intellectual property rights and contract rights that would otherwise have restricted the ability to receive television broadcasts only to proper licensees within a particular member state.

The case arises out of the purchase by certain pubs (restaurant/bars) in the United Kingdom of foreign decoder cards, issued by a Greek broadcaster to subscribers resident in Greece, to view Premier League football matches. But, the broadcast rights owner, the Football Association Premier League (the "FAPL") grants broadcasters an exclusive live broadcasting right for Premier League matches on a territorial basis, usually defined by national borders of a particular EU state. In the United Kingdom, the broadcast rights were granted exclusively to SKY television. The purchase of the decoders to directly access the broadcast of the football matches directly circumvented SKY's exclusivity rights under contract, and the intellectual property rights to choose licensees of the FAPL.

But, the Court of Justice decided that the core European Union principle of freedom to provide services supporting healthy competition trumped any national legislation which prohibits the import, sale or use of foreign decoder cards. They held that such a prohibition 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.

Judgment in Cases C-403/08 and C-429/08

Football Association Premier League and Others v QC Leisure and Others

Karen Murphy v Media Protection Services Ltd

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