They think it’s all over – landlady set for final TV ruling

DETERMINED Landlady of the Red, White and Blue Karen Murphy
DETERMINED Landlady of the Red, White and Blue Karen Murphy

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THE end is in sight for pub landlady Karen Murphy in her battle with the Premier League over the use of a foreign TV decoder to screen games.

THE end is in sight for pub landlady Karen Murphy in her battle with the Premier League over the use of a foreign TV decoder to screen games.

For six years she has been fighting for permission to show matches in the Red, White and Blue pub, in Fawcett Road, Southsea, while bypassing the hefty fees demanded by Sky.

In 2006, she was prosecuted for breaching copyright law when she decided to use a broadcaster not authorised by the League, Greek channel Nova.

Ms Murphy was ordered to pay almost £8,000 in fines and costs and tomorrow the High Court will finally decide whether to quash her conviction.

It follows a historic victory in the European Court of Justice which ruled that an exclusive system of licences for the broadcasting of football matches in different EU countries is ‘contrary to EU law’.

That decision paved the way for pubs across the UK to follow Ms Murphy’s example and use European decoders to receive and screen Premier League games – if the High Court agrees with the EU ruling.

Her solicitor Paul Dixon, of Molesworths Bright Clegg Solicitors, said: ‘Tomorrow’s hearing should mark the end of a long battle for a brave and determined lady.

‘Karen has stood up for the rights of the individual and taken her case to the highest court in Europe.

‘The implementation of the European Court’s ruling by the High Court tomorrow will have a bearing on the freedom of all EU citizens to receive television broadcasts of sports, drama and films throughout the EU.

‘While we are all hoping for success tomorrow, whatever the outcome, it has been an honour and a pleasure to represent Karen.’

But he added that a separate civil case running at the same time had made it clear there are still elements of Premier League matches – such as the anthem at the start and two logos – which are protected by copyright.

Following the ruling in that case a Premier League spokesman said: ‘It is clear that the law gives us the right to prevent the unauthorised use of our copyrights in pubs and clubs when they are communicated to the public without our authority.

‘We will now resume actions against publicans who are using European Economic Area foreign satellite systems to show Premier League football on their premises unlawfully and without our authority.’

The future for football broadcasts to be decided

THE High Court decision tomorrow will follow two other significant rulings in recent months.

Together the three judgements will determine the future of sports broadcasting in the UK and Europe.

The first was the ruling by the European Court of Justice in November that the exclusive arrangement between Sky and the Premier League to broadcast matches in the UK was unlawful.

It said that, subject to the permission of the copyright holder, pubs could use European decoder boxes and channels to screen Premier League matches. Effectively bypassing Sky – and its notoriously high fees – altogether.

But the copyright issue was the subject of the second important judgement, which was made in February in a civil case between the Premier League and foreign satellite suppliers QC Leisure and AV Station among others.

Ruling on the case Lord Justice Kitchin said the Premier League’s copyright had only been breached to a ‘limited extent’ through the broadcasting of its anthem and logos without its permission.

If the High Court chooses to adopt the EU court’s ruling, as it is expected to do, then foreign broadcasters and pub landlords such as Ms Murphy will be able to continue bypassing Sky if they can avoid using any of these copyright-protected elements.