Illegal broadcasting of Sky Sports football, dispute resolution news at Russell-Cooke Solicitors.

Musings over a pint in the pub - cracking down on the illegal broadcasting of Sky Sports football

Jack Rogers, Associate in the Russell-Cooke Solicitors, dispute resolution team.
Jack Rogers
2 min Read

As I am sure many of those reading this blog will not have done so, I was sitting in a pub addressed to which, not so long before, I had written a letter before claim requiring the pub to stop illegally broadcasting Sky Sports football.

This is not a hobby of mine, but one of the key aspects of work a trainee undertakes in a seat in professional regulation - with Sky as one of our biggest clients.

For somebody who enjoys nothing more than going to a pub to watch a game of football, the thought of being involved in trying to put a stop to pubs showing football seems inherently wrong.

Then I remember that I am a lawyer, and that stopping illegal conduct, even if does mean less football at my local pub, is a key remit of the job.

The illegality in this instance stems from a breach of intellectual property. Sky owns the copyright contained in their broadcasts and the use of this copyright is licensed to authorised pubs via the appropriate commercial agreement.

A pub that broadcasts Sky Sports without a commercial agreement in place, is in breach of Sky’s copyright by ‘communicating to the public’ the copyright – contrary to s20 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Sky is entitled to enforce its rights in its copyright and can seek, among other things, damages to recover the loss it has suffered.

Putting aside the illegality of the offence, there are other commercial reasons why it is important that this behaviour is stopped. The Premier League is big business; Sky and other broadcasters pay huge sums of money each year to have the right to broadcast certain matches throughout the season.

A large chunk of the revenue that Sky brings in is via commercial agreements with pubs throughout the country. These pubs make the commercial decision that paying monthly subscriptions to Sky for the right to broadcast Sky Sports in their premises will in turn increase their profits, as they bring in thirsty punters to watch the games.

If pubs are showing Sky Sports without such an agreement in place then Sky is missing out revenue. If more and more pubs start to show Sky without a valid commercial agreement in place then inevitably Sky will have to raise prices, negatively affecting other consumers.

If no action were taken by Sky to put a stop to the illegal broadcasting, it would disincentives all pubs from signing up. It is not fair for a pub at one end of the street, illegally streaming Sky Sports, to take business from a pub at the other end of the street, whilst they pay their monthly subscription.

So next time you are enjoying the game in your local pub, you should hope that the pub landlord has been sensible enough to sign up to a commercial agreement with Sky, or else they might be receiving a letter from me, and nobody wants that.

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