Special 301 Close-up: Premier League recommends regulator guidelines, countries to monitor

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In its 2024 submission for the US Trade Representative’s Special 301 Report, the Football Association Premier League, Ltd., recommended that the agency monitor Vietnam, Jordan, Thailand and Argentina, where the League reports piracy operations; some of which have been ongoing for years.

The League contends that rights owners require legal systems that enable “impactful enforcement acction against all parties involved in the piracy ecosystem.”

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It also recommended a framework to support live sports rights owners such as the League, with features in four categories:

  • Technology-neutral provisions that estblish civil and criminal liability for pirate operators
  • A regime that enables rights holders to swiftly block piracy web sites and enabling devices without affecting legal services
  • Law enforcement authorities that are resourced to recognize, investigate and prosecute pirates within their jurisdictions, and
  • The ability to act quickly, before a piracy problem has evolved

About Argentina…

While it didn’t provide details in its 2024 submission, the League reminded regulators of still-unresolved cases in Argentina that it submitted for previous Special 301 reports, saying that enforcement measures there were ineffective, “‘with hardly any administrative or criminal actions.’

In 2018, the Premier League had notified authorities of streaming platforms that enabled stolen livestreams to be uploaded for further online distribution; including “the largest source of free-to-access infringing live streams of matches in the world.”  In the ensuing years, the case was passed between multiple courts, and the League found out that the court had notified the defendents about the live investigation.  The League submitted further evidence, including prosecution by a US court – yet the suspects were acquitted.

The League concluded that the IP enforcement framework in Argentina does not offer the support that rights owners the protections that they require.

Other countries

Thailand: While authorities in Thailand had proven very supportive in past years, the Premier League recommended that Thailand remain under USTR observation, as the country had not implemented a functioning site blocking regime, nor had there been much progress on existing criminal referrals by the League, despite reports of ongoing infringement.

Vietnam: The League was encouraged by progress in Vietnam, in the form of copyright legislation by the country’s Broadcast authority, and the formation of a specialized unit to ‘clamp down on’ pirate sites, but remained unsatisfied with the lack of progress against existing cases.  One case, involving a large scale operation reported to authorities by the League in 2020 and serving 40 countries, had not yet meaningfully progressed.  Such cases pass between government agencies without resolution. Furthermore, Vietnam does not mandate copyright registration, which makes claims difficult.

Jordan: The League also recommended that Jordan remain under observation by the USTR. One operator in Jordan was selling Spider-branded illicit streaming devices at retail, which was supported by a Web site that distributes pirate content.  These are available in both physical storefronts not only in Jordan but elsewhere in the region.  The League had also reported this operation for the USTR’s Notorious Markets List.

While the Premier League’s 2023 submission recommended that the USTR give China and Iraq priority attention, neither of those countries appeared in the 2024 submission.

Further reading

Comment from The Football Association Premier League Limited. Report. Submitted February 4, 2024. Docket (USTR-2023-0014), Accessed March 1, 2024. Office of the US Trade Representative

Comment from The Football Association Premier League Limited. Report. Submitted January 30, 2023. Docket USTR-2022-0016, Accessed March 1, 2024. Office of the US Trade Representative

Special 301 submissions by IPR stakeholders help US Trade Rep target piracy.  Article. March 6, 2024. Piracy Monitor

2024 Special 301 Report. Web site. Docket (USTR-2023-0014), Accessed March 1, 2024. Office of the US Trade Representative

Why it matters

The Football Assocation Premier League Ltd “is the organizing body of the top-level competition for football clubs in England and Wales,” and aggregates the rights from twenty member clubs for licensing worldwide.  380 matches are played each season, reaching about 900 million households, including outlets in the US and aroudn the world.

The League has invested £1.6 billion in community and wider football initiatives for the 2022/23 and 2024/25 seasons, in 45 markets, training 36,000 adults and benefitting about 2 million young people.

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