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Home > News > Injunctions Go Real-Time: The End of Free Football Streaming?

Injunctions Go Real-Time: The End of Free Football Streaming?

05 April 2017 |

The Football Association Premier League Limited v British Telecommunications PLC & Ors [2017] EWHC 480 (Ch)

During the most recent chapter of the English Premier League’s (EPL) struggle against pirate broadcasters, the High Court issued a new form of blocking order that sources are referring to as a “live” block.

In summary, the order requires internet service providers such as BT, Virgin, Talk Talk etc. to:

  • Block access to streams brought to their attention by the EPL each week
  • Block these servers only while a match is broadcast
  • Continue this process until the end of the current season

Why have we not seen this before?

It used to be the case that the majority of infringing streams were sourced via a single website, such as FirstRow Sports, which was the focus of a normal single-site blocking order in FAPL v BskyB in 2013. This order was designed to force internet providers to block their users from accessing the FirstRow websites and accessing pirate material.

Piracy has evolved since then. The focus of the industry is now on app-based products that can access streaming content without connecting the viewer to any site in particular.

In this case, Kodi boxes were singled out in particular as a problem for the EPL. Thrifty fans can illegally order these boxes to come “fully loaded” with a selection of high resolution, free streaming software that draws infringing content from multiple and constantly changing sources. As a result, a traditional one-off block targeting a single irksome website was of no use whatsoever.

To solve this problem, the High Court produced an order which allows the EPL to go directly to your internet provider and require them to shut down access to any server (as opposed to a website) that streams infringing content. In other words, the block targets the stream directly. The list of streams to be blocked is to be updated every game week in an attempt at preventing users from accessing new alternatives.

Is this the end of free EPL streaming in the UK?

Probably not.

The order will not be effective against pirate broadcasters who are able to change streams on multiple occasions within a single game week (the order’s notification period), or even multiple times within a single hour.

It’s also worth observing that the live blocking order was subject to a strict test. Were it not for (among other things) the support of the majority of the ISPs against whom the injunction was taken and the minimal impact on non-infringing streams, the order may never have been granted. It seems unlikely that this sort of order will be something that content owners can go out and get easily or quickly.

On the plus side for the EPL and other rights holders, it looks as though ISPs will remain broadly in favour of this block (which the Independent suggests that it is likely to be renewed next season) and any development on the theme of piracy prevention. The law is likely to evolve further, even if the pirates have a head start.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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