A recent opinion of the Advocate General could cause chaos for Intellectual Property Rights holders. The case surrounds a huge industry; the Premier League. The Premier League licenses its television rights and does it on a Country by Country basis. The biggest market is currently the UK market which has broadcasts by Sky and ESPN. However other Country broadcasters are licensed to show Premier League fixtures on their television channels. These non British channels satellite broadcast can be picked up in the UK. Because of the prices charged by Sky particularly public houses and social clubs which were struggling for revenue acquired a Decoder card for a non UK satellite channel. A lady called Karen Murphy was prosecuted for showing a Greek satellite channel in her public house in Southampton. Her case has been referred to the European Court for a guidance as to whether the showing of the Greek channel in the UK infringed, amongst other things, copyright.
In the European Court of Justice the process begins with the Advocate General giving an opinion. This opinion is not binding on the Court but is more often than not followed. Today the Advocate General has given an opinion. In that opinion the Advocate General has said “the exclusivity agreement relating to transmission for football matches are contrary to European Law” he went on “exclusivity rights in question have the effect of partitioning the internal market into quite separate national markets, something which constitutes a serious impairment of the freedom to provide services.”
If this opinion is followed it will have certain repercussions for those people who have intellectual property rights and sell them on a territory by territory basis. At the moment there is no decision as yet but it may well be that a major rethink by intellectual property owners will be needed if they are to properly licence their markets.