On the application of the Premier League, Mr Justice Arnold made an Order in the High Court back in March requiring the major UK Internet Service Providers (“ISPs), two of which (Sky and BT) have an interest in the subject matter as exclusive licensees of broadcasting and internet transmission rights for Premier League footage in the UK, to take measures to block, or at least impede, access by their customers to streaming servers which deliver infringing live streams of Premier League footage to UK consumers.
This live blocking Order was temporary and only lasted until 22 May 2017, which was the end of the 2016/2017 Premier League season. The short duration of the order was intended to enable an assessment of its effectiveness, and of any issues encountered, with a view to the Premier League applying for a similar order to cover the 2017/2018 season, with any changes that may seem appropriate in the light of last season's experience.
With the start of the 2017/2018 season fast approaching the Premier League recently made a new application to the court for a similar order to cover the new season from its start on 12 August 2017 to its conclusion on 13 May 2018. The ISPs did not oppose the new application and agreed the terms of the Order with the Premier League. The High Court, however, needed to be satisfied that it was justified.
The Premier League filed evidence in support of its new application which demonstrated that the original Order was very effective in achieving the blocking of access to live streams during Premier League matches. The court also highlighted that no evidence had been found of ‘overblocking’ (i.e. blocking access to servers beyond those live streaming Premier League football matches) despite several types of check having been undertaken.
On considering the evidence and the terms of the agreed Order, Mr Justice Arnold was satisfied that the Court had jurisdiction to make the Order sought and that it was appropriate to exercise his discretion to do so for essentially the same reasons as the original Order.
On this occasion the Order sought by and granted to the Premier League differed from the original Order predominantly by making technical alterations to the way the IP addresses of the live streams are to be detected and blocked from the start of the new Premier League football season. This change has been designed to make the blocking more effective and efficient. Mr Justice Arnold, however, declined to describe these details in his judgment in order to prevent the order being circumvented. This was particularly in light of evidence filed by the Premier League in support of the application which demonstrated that there had been clear attempts to circumvent the original Order.
This latest Order of Mr Justice Arnold and the changes made to the original Order due to attempts to circumvent it is a yet another clear demonstration that the law and courts are flexible enough to be applied to address changing technology and the way in which unauthorised and infringing content is being provided to and accessed by an increasing number of UK consumers.
As previously, the key motivation of the court in making the Order is that it believes that it will be effective and dissuasive in that it will substantially reduce infringements of the Premier League’s copyrights in the UK via unauthorised streams of Premier League matches that will now be blocked, thus educating UK consumers that accessing infringing streams is not a lawful or reliable way to access Premier League content.
DMH Stallard has a specialist team of intellectual property specialists who can advise and assist further on the range of IP enforcement options available for clients.
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