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Live blocking injunctions taken to extra time

01/08/2017
In a High Court decision handed down last week (Football Association Premier League v British Telecommunications Plc & 5 Ors) [2017] EWHC 1877 (Ch)) Mr Justice Arnold granted the FAPL a second blocking injunction to block access to unauthorised live streams of Premier League matches for the entire 2017/2018 season.

Earlier this year we blogged (here) about the decision in The Football Association Premier League Limited v British Telecommunications PLC and Others [2017] EWHC 480 (Ch), in which the FA Premier League ("FAPL") was granted a blocking injunction for the final two months of the 2016/17 Premier League season. The order only lasted until 22 May 2017 in order to assess whether it had been effective or whether there had been any issues, with a view to FAPL re-applying for a similar order and making any appropriate changes taking into account any issues that had arisen.  

In a further High Court decision handed down last week, Mr Justice Arnold granted the FAPL a second blocking injunction to block access to unauthorised live streams of Premier League matches for the entire 2017/2018 season.

The FAPL sought the order on largely the same terms as the first, but with the intention to cover the new season which runs from 12 August 2017 to 13 May 2018. Although the application was not opposed by the defendants (BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media), the court had to be satisfied that the order was justified. The FAPL was able to provide evidence to show the initial order had, according to its press release, blocked more than 5,000 server IP addresses that had previously been streaming illegal Premier League content. The court was also content that there had not been any evidence of "overblocking".

The second order did, however, contain a few differences to the original order:

  • There was an adjustment to the first criterion in Confidential Schedule 3 (see para 21 of FAPL v BT I here) which enlarged the subset of infringing streaming servers to be blocked in some instances, but also reduced it in another; and

  • There were two specific technical alterations which are designed to make blocking more effective and efficient. The exact details were not included in the judgment to prevent people trying to circumvent the measures. The judgment notes that there was a clear attempt to circumvent the first order, so there was a need to be cautious.

On the basis of the evidence before the court, Arnold held that the reasons for granting the order were justified.

Comment

This is an important decision because it cements the court's willingness to try to tackle the problems associated with new technologies. It will be interesting to see how successful the order is for the new season and whether the FAPL will be able to obtain orders for future seasons - we shall have to wait and see.

As a side note, it is unsurprising that the defendants did not oppose the application, as they too want to tackle the issue of illegal streaming due to the costs involved in acquiring rights to broadcast matches.

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