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Premier League loses footie decoder case

Euro court rules in favour of pub landlady

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The European Court of Justice has judged that Brits must be allowed to buy satellite TV smartcards and decoders from other single-market countries.

National laws that forbid the importation and sale of such kit from other European nations are contrary to rules guarding the freedom of Europeans to trade across national borders within the Union, the ECJ said today.

Local bans can't "be justified either in light of the objective of protecting intellectual property rights or by the objective of encouraging the public to attend football stadiums", it said in a ruling that echoes non-binding legal advice given in February this year.

The ruling was sought by Portsmouth pub landlady Karen Murphy who had been fined almost £8000 for using a Greek satellite TV decoder to show Premier League football matches.

She had used the kit because it was cheaper than Sky's local offering: £118 a month for the service from Greek provider Nova, compared to £480 a month from Sky. The Premier League had sold the UK rights to Sky and ESPN.

The legal action against Murphy was brought by the Premier League, which is keen to protect the considerable amount of money it makes selling match transmission rights to national broadcasters.

That model could be undermined if punters were allowed to buy content from the cheapest sources rather than be forced to use the provider in their own country. ®

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