Court orders against unlicensed pubs are a win for Scottish Premier Football League, Sky

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An Edinburgh pub was issued a permanent injunction against showing unlicensed live broadcasts of Premiership matches by Sky.  According to news reports, the pub must also pay the legal costs incurred by the Scottish Premier Football League (SPFL) and pay for ads in local press outlets that publicize this incident.

“”It’s entirely unfair to (lawful licensees) if others are allowed to get away without paying and today’s announcement underlines our determination to track down the license-dodgers and make them pay,” said Neil Doncaster, CEO of the SPFL.

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Proprietors of The Hoolet’s will pay £10,000 in damages plus interest for copyright infringement.

It has happened before

This isn’t the first time such actions have occurred.  In 2022, three Edinburgh-area pubs were cited for showing matches illegally.  Sky has a £150 million distribution agreement with the SPFL which extends through 2029.

“Venues who continue to televise content in this way are breaking the law, and are at risk of being caught, which can result in licensees being ordered to pay significant damages and legal costs to Sky, and/or losing their personal licence,” said Sara Stewart, head of Commercial Compliance for Sky.

Further reading

Switch Off SPFL piracy clampdown hammers Edinburgh pub with court action for illegally showing Premiership games. Article. March 17, 2023. The Scottish Sun

Blantyre pub ordered to pay thousands for showing Sky Sports illegally. Article. March 17, 2023. Glasgow Evening Times

Why it matters

Multinational law enforcement actions against piracy operations with global reach tend to steal the spotlight from smaller but still effective anti-piracy actions like this one.

However, there is a cumulative effect.  Sky says it visits pubs across the UK on an ongoing basis, looking for those which infringe copyright by showing matches without license.

Between efforts by sports leagues and local authorities, and support by anti-piracy organizations like the UK’s Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT, which was not known to be involved in this particular action), piracy can be reduced through dogged pursuit at a ‘retail’ level.

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