UEFA, the governing body of football in Europe, has secured an order from the Irish High Court requiring several internet service providers (ISPs) to block the illegal live streaming of matches for the 2020/2021 season. The High Court granted a “live blocking” injunction (live blocking order) to UEFA requiring the ISPs to block access to intellectual property (IP) addresses making UEFA’s copyright works available without their consent. The High Court granted the injunction under section 40(5A) of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000. UEFA sought the orders in proceedings against Eircom, trading as Eir, Sky Ireland Ltd, Sky Subscribers Services Ltd, Virgin Media Ireland Ltd and Vodafone Ireland Ltd. The Sky companies supported UEFA’s application; the other parties neither supported nor opposed the application.
Legal Basis for the Order
The High Court relied on the Court of Appeal judgment in Sony Music Entertainment (Ireland) Ltd & Ors v. UPC Communications Ireland Ltd IECA 231 where the relevant legal test for the granting of live blocking orders was set out. That test was described in the later High Court decision of The Football Association Premier League Limited v Eircom & Others IEHC 615 as follows:
- it must be necessary
- the costs involved must not be excessive or disproportionate and the order itself should not be unduly complicated
- the cost sharing proposals must be fair and reasonable
- the order must respect the fundamental rights of the parties affected, including internet users, and
- the duration of the order and the provisions for review must be reasonable.
In seeking the live blocking order, UEFA claimed that matches, including certain international fixtures and games in the Champions League and Europa League, were being shown in Ireland and elsewhere on computers, set-top boxes and other devices, without authorisation and in breach of its copyright. UEFA relied strongly on the harm caused to the organisation by illegal streaming in its application for the blocking order.
In granting the live blocking order in favour of the UEFA, the High Court accepted the evidence that there was a low risk of “over-blocking” and that any legitimate rights of internet users are fully respected.
The Rise of ‘Live’ Blocking Injunctions
In 2017, UEFA obtained a similar High Court injunction that compelled ISPs including BT, Virgin, Sky and TalkTalk to block pirated match streams in the UK. In 2019, the English Premier League, trading as Football Association Premier League Limited (Premier League), was granted the first live blocking injunction in Ireland preventing the illegal viewing of Premier League matches. This was subsequently extended for the 2020/2021 season (click here and here to see our previous articles on those decisions).
The recent cases demonstrate the High Court’s willingness to grant injunctions to prevent any illegal streaming in real time during matches. Live blocking orders are an important tool for sports rights owners to protect their IP rights ensuring that the value of any broadcasting deal is protected.
Contributed by Patrick Murphy & Laura Flanagan