ISP’s ordered to block access to sports broadcasts

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On Tuesday the High Court in London made orders against the big six UK ISPs (who did not oppose the application) blocking UK user access to a website called First Row. First Row were involved in distributing unlicensed sports content to users.

So far most of the running in the blocking injunction cases has been made by the entertainment industry (see the Newzbin2, Pirate Bay and Fenopy decisions). This case is significant because we now see sports bodies getting involved (the case was led by the FA Premier League but was supported by other governing bodies including UEFA as well as those representing rugby, golf, darts and snooker).

The case is also significant as it does not involve peer-to-peer technology as in the earlier entertainment industry cases, but instead involves the streaming of content. There is an issue here in terms of whether utilising that technology involves unlawful copying by those who view the content. This will have to await the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in PRCA –v- NLA (in which BLP are acting for the NLA).

However, the court found that infringement was taking place under the separate communication to the public right. Though the streams came from third party sites, First Row indexed and organised them for end users. Mr Justice Arnold held that this was enough to make First Row responsible for the communication to the public.

Despite efforts to trace the controllers of First Row, this did not prove possible and they played no part in the proceedings. To deal with this the order contains a right for the operators of the website to apply vary or discharge it at a later date. This is likely to be a standard provision included in such orders in the future, though whether it will be invoked seems unlikely.

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