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Sky loses pub footy case

European court says oui to grey imports

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Sky has no legal right to stop people using cheaper non-UK decoders, according to a European legal opinion.

This is not a binding opinion, but it deals a blow to Sky's desire to license its content country-by-country within the EU.

Karen Murphy, a pub landlady from Portsmouth, faced £8,000 in fines and costs for using a Greek Sky decoder to show the footy in her pub.

Advocate General Juliane Kokott's opinion is that exclusivity agreements effectively partition the market into separate segments - which impairs free access to those services for all citizens.

Kokott could find no specific reason why live satellite transmissions of Premier League games should be allowed to segment the European market. The transmission is exploited by charging for the decoder cards - which is not undermined if a "foreign" card is used, even if the charge is less.

The Advocate further found that restrictions on cards so they can only be used for domestic or private viewing cannot justify territorial restrictions. But member states can preserve the right of authors to object to use of their intellectual property in pubs.

The opinion is not binding on the Court of Justice, which is considering the case, but is just a possible legal solution which the judges might consider.

But the court often does follow the opinions of its advocates, in which case Sky and other broadcasters will have to look carefully at their European charges.

You can download the European opinion on Sky's football licensing here. ®

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