The Premier League believes that the screening of football matches in pubs via foreign satellite systems is still illegal because the broadcasts contain some copyrighted material — such as the Premier League logo and anthem — which require its authorisation before use. The Premier League said it would take its time to fully digest the meaning of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) judgement on the use of foreign satellite decoder cards in this country. It will now be up to the High Court to decide how to implement the judgement in UK law. The ECJ yesterday ruled largely in favour of Portsmouth licensee Karen Murphy in her long running battle with the Premier League over use of a Greek satellite system at her pub. The ECJ said that restricting the sale of European foreign satellite decoder cards is “contrary to the freedom to provide services”. The ruling also claimed that a “system of exclusive licences is also contrary to European Union competition law if the licence agreements prohibit the supply of decoder cards to television viewers who wish to watch the broadcasts outside the member state for which the licence is granted.” A spokesman for the Premier League said: “This is clearly a complex issue, one that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has spent a significant amount of time considering. “The ECJ judgment responds to 18 specific questions referred by the UK High Court. They have now answered these questions in terms of how European Law applies. It is now for the High Court to consider how the ECJ judgment affects the cases in question. “On the broader points that could flow from the ECJ judgment; the areas of law involved are complicated and necessarily we will take our time to digest and understand the full meaning of the judgment and how it might influence the future sale of Premier League audio-visual rights in the European Economic Area.” The one ray of hope for the Premier League — and Sky — in the ruling was that although the ECJ ruled football matches could not be subject to copyright law, various parts of the broadcast could — such as the Premier League logo, the credits and the Premier League anthem. The ECJ said that “Transmission in a pub of the broadcasts containing those protected works, such as the opening video sequence or the Premier League anthem, constitutes a communication to the public within the meaning of the copyright directive, for which the authorisation of the author of the works is necessary”. The Premier League spokesman said: “We are pleased that the judgment makes it clear that the screening in a pub of football-match broadcasts containing protected works requires the Premier League’s authorisation. “Currently only Sky and ESPN are authorised by the Premier League to make such broadcasts. The Premier League will continue to sell its audio-visual rights in a way that best meets the needs of our fans across Europe and the broadcast markets that serve them but is also compatible with European Law.” BSkyB shares fell 3.7% yesterday, with some estimates that the ruling could cost the broadcaster up to £200m in lost revenue. Meanwhile, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) head of strategy Kate Nicholls said the ruling is “not a green light for pubs to start using foreign satellite services now”. “The ruling is clear that whilst foreign satellite cards may be imported their use is a different matter and pubs would need permission to broadcast under any new system. “This is far from clearcut and the implications will take time to feed through. In the meantime, UK law still outlaws their use — proceed with caution.” Meanwhile, British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “At last, the end is in sight to years of uncertainty surrounding this issue. The UK authorities should now very quickly clarify the position in UK law so pubs know exactly where they stand. “Perhaps now, football will become more affordable for pubs, as live sport is a key ingredient of a great pub for millions of customers. “The underlying driver of the problem has been the big price hikes that Sky have levied, with a 20 per cent last year alone. These have been a big drain on pubs.”

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