A leading competition lawyer claims it is unlikely the UK courts will stop the use of European decoder cards being used in pubs. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled against the Premier League yesterday stating that pubs can show football matches via foreign (European) television decoders. It claimed that restricting the sale of European foreign satellite decoder cards is “contrary to the freedom to provide services”. The UK Court of Appeal had asked the court to clarify the case of Portsmouth pub licensee Karen Murphy, who had been prosecuted for screening games via a Greek decoder card, However, the Murphy case has now got to go back to the UK high court for a ruling. The ECJ confirmed that football matches were not subject to copyright but some of the supporting coverage such as the credits, commentaries and the theme tune of the Premier League would be. The Premier League said it believes this means that screenings in pubs are still illegal because they contain the copyrighted materials. It claimed this could only be shown with the agreement of the owners. But Julian Maitland Walker, senior partner and competition lawyer at Maitland Walker, said he believes the UK courts will rule to allow this copyright to be reproduced as there is a clause in the Copyright Directive, which allows a minimal copyright content as an ancillary to the main programme. He said: “The Premier League have raised this point about the parts of the football match screening which do benefit from copyright. “I think it (National UK court) will allow this to be reproduced without giving rise to copyright issues.” He issued a note of caution on how the Premier League might react: “Tactically I suppose the Premier League might try to increase the copyright material in the programming in order to strengthen their copyright arguments. “I hope and I would like to think that they would see it is not in their interest to do that in the end. But to adjust the fees to make sure that they are more equitable among member states and that would mean in the UK people would pay rather less and the member states would pay rather more.” He advised pubs to wait for the UK ruling in relation to the Murphy case before deciding to purchase any European decoder cards. He said: “I think it would be wise for them to wait until the national court has looked at the material in the programming. That is going to be key. My guess is the court will decide people are free to use it.” He added: “The short answer is that Karen Murphy has succeeded. This is an important ruling as it opens up the market.”