Feeds

Watching World Cup online could land you in court

Do you have a license for this football, sir?

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Employees watching World Cup matches on the internet without a TV licence could for the first time land company directors in court as the TV Licensing Authority extends its World Cup clampdown to broadband and internet usage.

The TV Licensing Authority, however, could find it hard to police the extension to broadband use since it has no record of who has and who has not bought a PC, nor how they use it.

Previously it was believed that only PCs with a broadcast card designed specifically to pick up TV signals needed a licence. But ahead of the BBC's streaming of live World Cup coverage, TV Licensing has said that it will prosecute in cases where TV is watched on a PC regardless of how it is received.

In theory, thousands of company directors could be fined because of the World Cup, since any workplace without a TV licence where matches are watched via a broadband connection is now liable for prosecution.

"Our policy would be to prosecute the representative within the company who is responsible – for example a director, manager, secretary or other similar corporate officer – at the time the offence was committed," a TV Licensing spokeswoman said.

The BBC's live streaming of games could be a trigger for prosecutions. "We make no distinction between those watching TV via PC-TV, broadband or any other way. If you are watching TV at the same time as it is being broadcast in the UK you need to be covered by a valid licence."

Only one licence per company premises is needed regardless of how many people there will watch TV, but any company without a licence could be in breach without even knowing it, since desktop users could watch a match without the company's knowledge.

The Licensing Authority operates by cross referencing equipment sales against licence holders and chasing down those with equipment but no licence. "We have a database of more than 28m addresses, so our enquiry officers know exactly which unlicensed business premises to target," said a TV Licensing press release.

But retailers are only forced to send information about buyers of television equipment. Retailers told OUT-LAW that no request had yet been received for information on purchases of computers, unless those computers are fitted with TV cards.

"If a PC isn't sold with a PC-TV card then we wouldn't report it," a spokeswoman for Comet said in a view informally confirmed at another major electronics retailer. "There is no requirement to do so. If TV Licensing tell us they need that information from us we would have to comply. So far they have not."

If no computer purchase information is included in TV Licensing's database, that means it has no record of computer users from which to search for licence breakers. TV Licensing also told OUT-LAW that it did not know what proportion of UK businesses hold a TV licence.

The authority for insisting on a licence comes from the definition of TV equipment in the Wireless Telegraph Act 1967, last amended by the Communications Act 2003 and subsequent orders of the government related to it.

The 2003 Act says:

"'Television receiver' means any apparatus of a description specified in regulations made by the Secretary of State setting out the descriptions of apparatus that are to be television receivers for the purposes of this Part."

In 2004, the Secretary of State ruled in the Television Licensing Regulations that:

"'Television receiver' means any apparatus installed or used for the purpose of receiving (whether by means of wireless telegraphy or otherwise) any television programme service, whether or not it is installed or used for any other purpose."

The law is almost certain to include the Television Licensing Authority's new definition. "It seems pretty clear that the definition is drawn so widely that it looks as though a PC would be a television apparatus which under the Act needs to be licensed," said Kim Walker, media and technology partner with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.

Businesses caught watching TV without a valid licence risk a fine of up to £1,000 plus court costs.

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Scrapping the Human Rights Act: What about privacy and freedom of expression?
Justice minister's attack to destroy ability to challenge state
WHY did Sunday Mirror stoop to slurping selfies for smut sting?
Tabloid splashes, MP resigns - but there's a BIG copyright issue here
Google hits back at 'Dear Rupert' over search dominance claims
Choc Factory sniffs: 'We're not pirate-lovers - also, you publish The Sun'
EU to accuse Ireland of giving Apple an overly peachy tax deal – report
Probe expected to say single-digit rate was unlawful
Inequality increasing? BOLLOCKS! You heard me: 'Screw the 1%'
There's morality and then there's economics ...
Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’
Catapult me a Mojito, I feel an Digital Innovation coming on
While you queued for an iPhone 6, Apple's Cook sold shares worth $35m
Right before the stock took a 3.8% dive amid bent and broken mobe drama
EU probes Google’s Android omerta again: Talk now, or else
Spill those Android secrets, or we’ll fine you
prev story

Whitepapers

A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.