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Premier League wins injunction against website facilitating illegal football streaming

The UK's six biggest internet service providers (ISPs) have been ordered to block access to a website that displays links to other sites where users can stream English Premier League football matches for free.18 Jul 2013

The High Court ruled that FirstRow had infringed on copyrights owned by the Football Association Premier League (FAPL) in relation to the broadcasting of Premier League football matches.

BT, Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, Telefónica and Virgin did not oppose the action taken by FAPL.

“We are extremely pleased that the order blocking this website has been granted and we will be enforcing it, in conjunction with the ISPs, ahead of the 2013/14 Barclays Premier League season," a Premier League spokesman said. "It is absolutely imperative that content industries are afforded protection under the law if they are to continue investing in the sort of quality talent and facilities that has made them successful and of interest in the first place."

"The judgment recognises the parasitic nature of the enterprise; this was an out and out commercial operation with estimated revenues of up to £10 million a year, whilst giving nothing back to the sport. The content industries are playing an increasingly significant role in the UK economy, so it is pleasing to see that the courts recognise this and prevent continued abuses of copyright," the spokesman added.

The injunction issued by the court was made under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act UK, which gives courts the power to grant an injunction against an ISP if it had 'actual knowledge' that someone had used its service to infringe copyright. Such an injunction was first issued in a case in 2011 involving BT and the Motion Picture Association over file-sharing website Newzbin2. A similar injunction was later issued to ISPs requiring them to block access to The Pirate Bay

The PL had argued that FirstRow infringed its copyright by communicating its work to the public without authorisation to do so, either itself or jointly with operators of websites (UGC sites) that enable internet users to stream broadcasts they digitally capture on their computer and embed them for others to access.

"The works are made available by electronic transmission in such a way that members of the public may access the recordings from a place and at a time individually chosen by them," said Mr Justice Arnold. The judge said FirstRow was responsible, at least in part, for that communication.

"FirstRow aggregates together a large number of streams from a variety of streamers, indexes them for the convenience of the user and provides a simple link for the user to click on in order to access a specific stream," Mr Justice Arnold said. "It is true that the technical effect of clicking on the link is to direct the stream from the UGC site to the user's computer, but even so the stream is presented in a frame provided by FirstRow. In all the circumstances, I consider that FirstRow is responsible for the communication. Even if I am wrong about that, I consider that FirstRow is jointly liable for the communication by the UGC sites."

Mr Justice Arnold said operators of the FirstRow website had actual knowledge of their infringement and that it was proportionate to serve a blocking order against the site.