back to article Premier League loses footie decoder case

The European Court of Justice has judged that Brits must be allowed to buy satellite TV smartcards and decoders from other single-market countries. National laws that forbid the importation and sale of such kit from other European nations are contrary to rules guarding the freedom of Europeans to trade across national borders …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Mike Brown


    this is the whole point of the single market. well done judge blokes!

  2. sabroni Silver badge

    It's not as simple as that

    Apparently. While punters are allowed to buy cards from foreign broadcasters for home use, there are copyright issues with public showing of the footage. The impression I got was that if Sky can get enough logos and other furniture on top of the image then the public showing will still be illegal. She's won the right for her punters to watch the footy cheaply at home. So a bit of an own goal, by the look of it...

    At least that's what other news agencies are reporting...

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Are those other news agencies owned by News International by any chance?

    2. mark 63 Silver badge

      re "It's not as simple as that"

      I thought the same thing about home use, but I'm sure it was made clear to the judge this was a pub landlady, by the price if nothing else , so this seems to have cleared the way for tobacconists to go stock up in greece too!

      1. jonathanb Silver badge

        Tobacconists can stock up in Greece provided they pay UK excise duty on their stock.

    3. A J Stiles

      But .....

      Chances are it will be considered Fair Dealing if it ever comes to court, unless (1) someone can show a practicable method to remove the offending logos or (2) there *aren't* two people on the jury who don't work for Murdoch.

    4. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Doubt it

      The same laws would apply - if Sky have sold the rights to publicly show their logo etc in Greece, then it is illegal for them to restrict the transfer of those "goods or services" within the EU. That's exactly the same argument the premier league used - they'd only authorised the showing of their copyright material in Greece via that provider, and so argued that showing it in the UK was a breach of copyright.

  3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Ruling makes sense

    These are the kinds of rulings that let ordinary people believe there are benefits to being part of the EU.

    1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      swings and roundabouts...

      ... on the plus side, cheap pay-TV, on the down side global financial meltdown, troughing politicians and bureaucrats and bankers issuing undemocratic dictats to the proles.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You'd have a point, if it made any real difference.

      Meanwhile, in the real world, the TV providers will still refuse to "officially" sell their services outside their own countries.

      The problem is not the TV companies, it's the rights holders. If they flog the rights to film A, sporting event B or TV series C in country Z, they don't like to see someone in Z subscribing to country X's service in order to see it. More to the point, the advertisers on TV X (oops, analogy problem) have a cow.

      In this case it's not Sky playing silly buggers, it's the Premier League. They're the ones whose asymmetric pricing means that Sky *have* to charge more than some Greek channel. I think the pub may have won the battle, but the war will start when said Greek TV company tries to renew its Premiership rights come contract time......

      Trouble is, it's a not a "black or white" argument.

      Now look at films, TV series' etc. As things stand in Continental europe, local markets usually gets a dubbed (sometimes subbed) version of same. If the people with a decent education (and that's usually those with cash that the advertisers are interested in) watch the thing on its release on a British, english-language service, where's the value in producing the local variant as and when? Having an open market for cross-border sales of TV services could have the rather nasty side-effect of crapping on the telly of the lower echelons of European society.

      So, is this a straightforward freedom of choice issue or a murky Free Market vs. Social considerations issue?

      As an expat with a Sky dish (which Sky believe is somewhere else), I'm with the free marketeers here.

  4. Simon Round

    Then the model is wrong..

    "That model could be undermined if punters were allowed to buy content from the cheapest sources rather than be forced to use the provider in their own country."

    Well then... In a nutshell. Reduce the prices in the Model to a competative level and then people, like this landlady, wouldn't need to source their services from elsewhere. Then the 'model' may show an increase of punters and either maintin a their profit or possibly increase their profits.

    Slaps forehead..

    1. Mike Smith

      Won't someone think of the players?

      Come on, come on, they can't do that. How on earth are the Rio Ferdinands and Ryan Giggses of this world going to afford their new Ferraris? Poor buggers are on the breadline as it is.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The players you mention, in fact, any top-end, recognised player playing for a major team are not going to be affected.

        If the PL cannot maximise their rights then it won't be Man U/City/Liverpool etc etc that suffer.

        The fallout from this ruling may see a lot more (even more?) smaller clubs suffering, along with their players and staff.

        1. James Micallef Silver badge

          "If the PL cannot maximise their rights then it won't be Man U/City/Liverpool etc etc that suffer."

          Yes they will suffer (a bit). Premier league TV rights are divvied up partly depending on league position and viewing figures, partly split equally. So if the Premier league gets less money, Man Utd et al get less money. You're right that it will hit players at smaller clubs harder. After all, £100,000 a week vs £200,000 a week is much of a muchness, while the difference between £2,000 and £1,000 a week will be felt much more.

  5. Loyal Commenter Silver badge


    It's obvious that Sky don't like competition. They've spent too long acting like a monopoly, it's good to see them get a kick up the arse for their ridiculous fleecing of their customers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Last time i checked anyone could bid for the rights.

      The fact that Virgin/BT/anyone either don't bother or not offer as much shouldn't be held against Sky.

      Remember Sky started bidding without necessarily knowing that the market for subscription footy existed.

      1. chr0m4t1c

        Sure about that?

        >Remember Sky started bidding without necessarily knowing that the market for subscription footy existed.

        I would have said it was a fairly safe bet. There are a lot of people out there for whom their team is their life, they have garden gates with the team emblem embedded in them, windows with the emblem embedded in the glass (like a tacky church window), fences painted in the team colours and an overriding desire to make sure they see *every* game the team plays.

        Those are the people who already spend £3k+ on a season ticket that actually doesn't get them into a game, it just reserves a seating allocation so they know they can then spend £50 to see the match. They are the people who would almost certainly still fork out £500/month to continue to see their team play.

        Sky knew full well that these people existed and they knew that whatever they paid they can just crank up the subs to cover it. Sky are just the ones with the biggest pot of cash to spend in the first place.

        The BBC probably could compete against Sky and put it on a top-up TV type of deal, but could you imagine how up in arms our somewhat dim-witted and Murdo-owned press would be?

  6. Wang N Staines

    Single market?

    How come I can't buy as much wine & beer from France as I want then?

    1. The First Dave


      (Which equals Government, so one level higher in the financial food chain.)

    2. Bassey

      Re: Single market?

      "How come I can't buy as much wine & beer from France as I want then?"

      Er, you can. People have been doing Booze cruises for years now. The illegal bit is if you then sell the beer and wine once you get back to the UK. For personal use there have been no limits since, I think, the very early 90s.

    3. Velv Silver badge

      You can buy as much as you like - you simply have to prove it is for "personal consumption" and that you aren't going to sell or otherwise dispose of it any form of trade.

      There is therefore an upper limit to what you might realistically consume, and anything above that is likely to raise suspicion.

      1. Just Thinking

        I don't know what it is like these days, but didn't they go through a phase a few years ago of confiscating peoples' cars because they refused to believe it was for personal consumption? I don't remember exactly how much was involved but it didn't seem excessive.

        Given the price difference why wouldn't someone bring a year's supply of wine back from their annual holiday? But I don't think customs would see it like that.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          bring back wine?

          ...I do! Personal consumption is covered...and a year is reasonable. My cellar has enough stock for Christmas and new year... next April I go off to France for a short break and another bootload

    4. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Single market does not apply to excise liable goods

      Single market only applies to goods which are normally liable to VAT only and do not have per-country specific taxation.

      Excise goods which include all tobacco, wine or even cars for that matter are not subject to single market regulations.

      The only reason you have been allowed to import "personal allowance" when traveling is that the EU governments have surrendered on the subject of enforcing that for small personal purchases.

    5. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      You can. You just have to persuade the nice man at Dover that it's all for your personal use.

    6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      You can...


      a) you import it yourself (no mail order)

      b) tax was paid in an EU country (e.g. a supermarket in Calais)

      c) It's for personal use, and not for resale.

  7. Robert E A Harvey

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    He he he he he he he he he he he he

  8. John Robson Silver badge

    So surely they'll seel the rights to sell it for viewing in one country and then shaft the provider...

  9. alain williams Silver badge

    What about grey imports ?

    Good news indeed, does this mean that Tesco can try to overturn the High Court ruling that stopped it importing jeans from cheaper parts of Europe. The two cases seem somewhat at odds with each other.

    What annoys me is that big companies seem to be allowed to use globalisation to their benefit but individuals/small_business cannot.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      I'm not a lawyer, but that appears to be different.

      Those apparently are (were, it's 9 years ago) jeans imported from outside the European Union. English Premiership football teams may be product of more than one country, but they are incorporated in the UK, although often owned by wealthy foreigners. If they play outside the EU then who knows... not I.

      A few stories earlier,

      "Companies could only buy goods from sources other than the producer if they were within the European community", where "they" apparently means the sources from which you are buying. Otherwise you "violate EU trademark rules". "The court ruled on an Austrian case, where a company sold cut-price sunglasses of the Austrian manufacturer Silhouette, which it had bought in Bulgaria and re-imported into the EU. " That ruling was was in 1998; Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007 according to Wikipedia and presumably is now paying full price like everyone else. Evidently they were genuine Silhouette sunglasses but even so...

      And Levi Strauss is in the United States, although I don't know where the actual manufacture of goods takes place.

      I wonder if that means that Oxfam aren't allowed to sell second hand Levis either.

      1. Richard Gadsden


        Second hand goods are different.

        It's something called the First Sale Doctrine - once goods, even copyrighted goods, have been sold, the purchaser may resell without restriction from the supplier.

        Wholesalers generally have goods on consignment or sale-or-return, and therefore have not completed the first sale by buying from the manufacturer.

        This is why the grey market is grey - if they were buying at retail in another country (and thus assuming full risk if the goods do not sell in the EU) and then reselling in the EU - and paying import duties and VAT - then first sale doctrine kicks in, though they wouldn't be able to advertise the goods as "new".

  10. swisstoni

    Serves Sky right for charging Pub's so much for content in the first place. For smaller pubs it's just not worth the expense, unless they turn their nice venue into a horrible multi-screened venue which shows nothing but sport all the time.

    I think TVs in pubs are the devil's work. But I can see the attraction of being able to show a couple of games a week to bring in some punters.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How long before the Murdoch newspapers and their government arm known as David Cameron call for an opt out from the European Court of Justice?

    Anonymous because I don't want to be sent to Guantanamo Bay.

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      Human Rights Act is already on the chopping block.

      Although I suppose that isn't what you asked.

      Anyone can be tried in the International Criminal Court, but someone has to catch them first. And then keep them. Obviously the arrest of Tony Blair or George Bush would be considered an act of war. I think anyone who thinks they have a case against Vladimir Putin is keeping quiet about it, too.

  12. Tom 38 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Not right

    The Premier League should be able to maximise revenue from their assets, by selling viewing rights to the UK (its major market) and then by selling it to any other markets that want to access it. It is a quirk of how satellite TV is broadcast that European channels (Greek, In this case) can be accessed outside of their market.

    I can see three outcomes from this:

    1) PL combine UK and Europe into one market. The cost for UK users (Sky subscribers) will rise, as the PL will want to raise the same money as before, but from just one market.

    2) PL only license the content to broadcasters using tightly targeted beams, so that only a single country/area is covered (or not covered).

    3) PL incomes drop as they refuse to sell to Europe.

    So, all so that a pub landlady can publicly display footy at a competitive advantage to other pubs in her area. She's no martyr, she's attempting to fleece the rights holder to make money.

    1. Graham Marsden

      "she's attempting to fleece the rights holder to make money."

      As opposed to the Rights Holders who are attempting to fleece *everyone* to maximise their profits?

    2. miknik

      So by that logic

      If I find a camera for £500 on amazon and buy it for £250 instead on ebuyer then I'm fleecing amazon.

    3. Brian 6

      @Tom 38

      "...all so that a pub landlady can publicly display footy at a competitive advantage to other pubs in her area." The other pubs in her area can do exactly the same thing and she has no problem with that. All this means is that Sky will have to be more realistic with there pricing in the UK now that we can legally source our football from other European suppliers.

    4. Jonathon Green

      "The Premier League should be able to maximise revenue from their assets, by selling viewing rights to the UK (its major market) and then by selling it to any other markets that want to access it. "

      Which part of "Single European Market" is it that you don't understand?

    5. gerryg

      Let me guess... work for a proprietary software company?

      It's how markets operate. The price drops to the price people are willing to pay. If the price drops below the cost of production producers stop producing. If the price rises, more producers enter the market. No-one is forcing the premier league to give it away, just use FRAND like terms in Europe.

      Plus, no-one will force you to go into a pub showing the Greek version. You can carry on supporting the higher price version.

      And, BTW, this was a decision by the ECJ - perhaps you might want to qualify your use of the word "fleece"? Or do you only obey the law you agree with? And if so what is your basis, other than vitriol, for criticising the the pub landlady?

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Wrong in so many ways

      The cost to ordinary punters will not change - rest assured Sky will have these as high as they dare already. Sky are not losing money from small pubs because they can't afford the stupid feas anyway. Many pubs are actually losing money because punters want to watch football and don't go when matches are on, while they would do otherwise. They can't target satellite beams, they have a footprint. Any small pub can take advantage of the ruling, not just hers. My local village pub has been showing football from Greece (now Portugal) for a long time. I'm glad it is now legal and above board.

    7. Tom 38 Silver badge

      I suppose all the down-voters expect that magical option 4 will happen, where unicorns and puppies frolic in the sunlight; all broadcast football is cheap and with Greek commentary; PL, Sky won't raise their prices as a consequence; and QPR/Wigan/Norwich don't become the next Pompey.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Option 5

        @Tom38, I instead hope for magical option 5, Sky raise the price, everyone says fuck this... and I can go into any pub safe in the knowledge that I won't have to suffer any shit football blaring out of the TV

    8. Chris007

      @ Tom 38

      1) PL combine UK and Europe into one market. The cost for UK users (Sky subscribers) will rise, as the PL will want to raise the same money as before, but from just one market.

      They'd have to charge everybody [in europe] the same otherwise people will go and get the cheaper foreign option so your argument doesn't make sense

      2) PL only license the content to broadcasters using tightly targeted beams, so that only a single country/area is covered (or not covered).

      AFAIK there aren't any of the type your thinking off (to country level). It doesn't make commercial sense (cost of satellite) to do this. Even the Satellites that Sky use are targetted (smaller footprint) but they can still be picked up with a big enough dish in the canary isles!!

      3) PL incomes drop as they refuse to sell to Europe.

      Not a chance in hell of this happening.

      1. Tom 38 Silver badge

        Narrow beam satellites

        Sky are broadcast over Astra 2D, which has quite a wide, unsophisticated narrow beam - you can pick it up in Spain quite easily -

        Astra 2D will be replaced over the next few years by 1N, 2E, 2F, all of which will have much more sophisticated narrow beams. In fact, 1N is currently moving to 28.2E, and has a much tighter narrow beam that solely covers the British Isles, and will be used by ITV's HD channels when it gets into position.

        1N has three beams, see this page for maps of the beam footprint.

        1. Mark 65 Silver badge

          It may well have three beams but, as you can see, where it can be picked up relates to how big the dish is.

  13. Sam Liddicott


    So it's OK to buy my music from Russia then? Mp3sparks?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You do know who is in the European Union?

      clue: not Russia

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: mp3sparks?

      Depends whether you want to take a punt on the music you're buying being legal itself in the first place.

      That wasn't the question here.

  14. Fuzz

    Good for pubs

    This ruling is great for pubs, unfortunately it doesn't help people at home much. A subscription to any EU based premier league football will set you back more than a sky subscription so isn't worth shopping around.

    I don't think Sky will lose too much sleep over it. 1 pub is only equivalent to 10 homes in terms of revenue. Also most pubs I go to that have an alternative satellite system have it just so they can show the 3pm games and they also have a UK sky system for everything else.

  15. Arctic fox

    Let me see now. Companies love the single market except when they.........

    ............can make more by rigging individual markets. Or have I misunderstood something?

  16. thefutureboy

    Down side...

    The down side of this ruling is the new found legality of allowing matches to be shown at 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. Currently no live matches may be shown at that time so as to not discourage football fans from attending lower league football by giving them the opportunity to watch 'better' football. This will no longer be the case.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "... on the plus side, cheap pay-TV, on the down side global financial meltdown, troughing politicians and bureaucrats and bankers issuing undemocratic dictats to the proles.


    And that makes the EU different from UK - country with a government that precisely nobody voted for - how exactly?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Greek Debt Solution?

    Am I the only one seeing the link here.

    The only thing the Greek Goverment need to do now is to sell enough of these cards throughout Europe to pay off their debt.

    I feel empowered. If I buy one of these cards, not only do I contribute towards easing the EU Debt crisis, I get to watch footy at 3pm at home. Win-Win!

    Now all I need to do is work out how to get the card to work in a Vu+ Duo anyone? Or maybe a cheap OpenBox S10?

  19. Andy Enderby 1

    @Tom 38 - Can't agree, if the product is on offer throughout Europe, then preserving the same revenue in a single market at least logically and prior to taxes/duty would mean that the price paid would be the same throughout. In other words, the price at the top of the range would come down, whilst at the bottom of the range, the price would go up.

    Either there is a single market or there isn't. Vendors at the moment are cherry picking what aspects of the single market they choose to implement and making a mockery of the rest. The big losers historically have been British resident buyers on just about everything they've been able to buy. It's not possibe to make the argument that as an example a product such as a CD, DVD or Blu Ray disk should cost more here than elsewhere in Europe as an example, and still keep a straight face. Tobacco and booze of course are subject to different duty througout Europe, but as pointed out, if it's for personal use, tough luck for whichever member state it ends up getting used in. Governments have had to take the hit, companies should be learning likewise.

    Either put in place equitable prices throughout Europe or have the good grace to shut up if somebody gets what they want form another member state because they are milking citizens in their own.

    Fleecing the rights holders ? She's accepted Greek tech support and billing, foregone an English language commentary but paid the going rate for an EU member state. Are you saying, that whilst on holiday abroad you buy no product that would be cheaper in that state than back here in Blighty ? I smell BS.

    Lastly, you don't work for Rupert do you ?

  20. dms05

    In fact the Pub Landlady has lost. You wouldn't believe it reading BBC News coverage! The court has ruled that some aspects of the Premier League coverage are copyright (not the actual game itself but things like Logo's and music associated with the product). So if she shows Premier League games in her pub FOR GAIN then she is infringing copyright and can be prosecuted.

    What no one seems to understand is this changes the game for all TV content. Films can no longer be restricted to just the UK (for example) but have to include EU coverage. The same applies to TV shows.

    As always Lawyers will make a LOT of money from this ruling if it's approved in the UK Courts.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unless she puts black tape on the logos.

    2. Andy ORourke

      So if she shows the game with no sound?

      Would that work?

    3. Graham Marsden


      But she is not showing games "For Gain"! Now if she was charging an entry fee on the door, that would be "for gain", but she's offering them for *free* and anyone coming into the pub can buy a drink if they want, just as they could before, however that has nothing to do with the football.

  21. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Doesn't just happen with TV

    I've encountered a number of instances of companies claiming they are the "exclusive UK agent" for XYZ software/hardware (which is legally dubious and I've had discussions with several american companies over the liabilities of setting up exclusive distribution agreements) and then throwing their toys out of the cot when $orkplace buys said software/hardware from elsewhere in the EU for half the money.

    A lot of the time we do that simply because of the sheer arrogance displayed by the sales teams involved - trying to dictate terms is a fast way of permanently losing a client.

    It has gotten as far as legal threats a couple of times, but once our own lawyers reply along with a threat to involve OFT all the resellers involved have slunk off with their tails between their legs.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What I find strange is...

    ..people actually pay money to watch 90 minutes of ball passing and nary a goal or action of any kind.

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019