This well documented epic started when publican Karen Murphy was prosecuted for screening Premier League football matches at her pub “The Red, White and Blue” in Southsea, Hampshire using a Greek decoder.  Ms Murphy paid her subscription to NOVA, a Greek Broadcasting service, who charged her less than one sixth of the price of Sky – the company with exclusive rights to broadcast premiership matches in the UK.  In 2007 she was convicted of dishonestly receiving a broadcast with intent to avoid payment of a charge. 

The High Court has now overturned Ms Murphy’s conviction following its recent reference to the European Court of Justice.  The High Court said that restricting the sale and use of foreign decoder cards is contrary to the freedom to provide services.

BUT ……………………Copyright issues remain
This all sounds like good news for the trade. However, the Murphy case does not mean that publicans are now safe to use foreign decoder cards.
The Murphy case did not give a ruling on copyright issues.  In the recent FAPL case against QC Leisure the High Court decided that whilst FAPL can’t claim copyright in the whole match it can enforce copyright in the surrounding media such as the anthem, pre-recorded sequences and graphics. 

Copyright is now much more embedded in the broadcast than it was in 2006 when the Murphy case began and it may not be long before we see a publican prosecuted for broadcasting a premier league match in breach of copyright.  We will need to wait for future case law decisions on copyright issues before it will be clear what publicans can screen without FAPL authority i.e through Sky.  Until these decisions have been reached publicans would be advised not to use foreign decoder cards.

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.