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Court ruling alters soccer broadcasts

European Court upheld use of broadcast decoders in U.K.

The European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday that the current system of handling soccer television rights in the European Union conflicts with the single market and competition law of the country, and could have a significant impact on how broadcasters televise European soccer throughout the world.

The ruling resulted from a case against Karen Murphy, a pub owner in Portsmouth, England. Murphy showed customers Premier League soccer matches using a decoder card she purchased from a provider in Greece, rather than one from the British Sky Broadcasting Group, which holds the rights to almost all games shown in the U.K, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The court released a statement today saying that the country-by-country licensing system the Premier League employed contradicted the EU’s competition law by preventing the selling of decoder cards across multiple borders, and added that prohibiting these cards “would go beyond what is necessary to ensure appropriate remuneration for the holders of the rights concerned.”

Additionally, the Wall Street Journal reported that although certain aspects of the Premier League, such as music and graphics, are copyrighted works, the actual soccer matches are not,  according to the statement released by the court.

This ruling could provide viewers with expanded opportunities for watching football, and could also cause significant changes to broadcasters if consumers readily turn toward countries with cheaper decoding cards and watch from their homes, Bloomberg news reported.

Danielle Feinstein

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