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Premier League boots footie-streaming site off Blighty's interwebs

Court orders ISPs to block FirstRow1 on copyright infringement grounds

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The Premier League has won a court order to force UK ISPs to block footie streaming service FirstRow1.eu in Blighty.

The High Court has ruled that the popular Swedish site's links to football match streams from around the world are a breach of copyright and will order the site to be blocked by ISPs including Sky, Virgin, BT and TalkTalk.

The ruling indicated that FirstRow1 was being used not just by people at home but by pubs in Britain to show matches while avoiding the hefty fees associated with the public broadcast of Premier League games.

As a site that provides links to other pages around the net for the video streams, FirstRow1 could argue that it wasn't actually providing the content and so wasn't in breach of copyright, but the judge rejected that argument.

"FirstRow aggregates together a large number of streams from a variety of streamers, indexes them for the convenience of the user and provides a simple link for the user to click on in order to access a specific stream," Justice Richard Arnold said.

"It is true that the technical effect of clicking on the link is to direct the stream from the UCG site to the user's computer, but even so the stream is presented in a frame provided by FirstRow. In all the circumstances, I consider that FirstRow is responsible for the communication. "

The site will be the first sports-related one to be blocked in the UK, after music and video torrent sites like The Pirate Bay were cut off.

"It is absolutely imperative that content industries are afforded protection under the law if they are to continue investing in the sort of quality talent and facilities that has made them successful and of interest in the first place," a Premier League spokesperson said.

"The judgment recognises the parasitic nature of the enterprise; this was an out and out commercial operation with estimated revenues of up to £10m a year, whilst giving nothing back to the sport."

ISPs generally follow court orders once they're issued, but BT and Sky in particular should find this an easy one to go along with, considering how much both paid for rights to Premier League matches for their TV services. BSkyB forked over £760m for the lion's share of the games, while BT spent £246m on its first foray into the footie. ®

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