This week copyright issues that pertain to football have been in the news. Both of these sports stories also illustrate the complexities of copyright when creators of content, consumers of that same content, and potential infringers live all over the world.
The first comes from the U.S. where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have seized ten web domains that link to unauthorized streaming video of games from the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, World Wrestling Entertainment, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. In a news release from ICE HSI, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York stated that this action had been taken down in anticipation of the Super Bowl on February 6: “With the Super Bowl just days away, the seizures of these infringing websites reaffirm our commitment to working with our law enforcement partners to protect copyrighted material and put the people who steal it out of business.” The Attorney asks that the domain names of the websites be forfeited.
These actions have been criticized on a number of grounds, including whether the websites had committed direct, criminal copyright infringement and jurisdictional issues with regard to domains located abroad and targeted at people in other countries.
On the other side of the Atlantic ocean, football and copyright discussion in Europe has centered on pubs in the UK that use decoders to show soccer games from foreign broadcasters. Pubs use the decoders because foreign broadcasters show popular games more cheaply that the local broadcasters. In two related cases, the English Premier League sued a pub in Southsea, England that used a decoder, and the League also sued a business that provides the decoders in the UK. In a non-binding opinion issued by the European Court of Justice, an advocate put forth reasons why “territorial exclusivity agreements relating to the transmission of football matches are contrary to European Union law.” Viewers should be able to buy television broadcasts from anywhere within the 27-nation European Union. EU courts are not bound by advocate general opinions, but often follow them. The Guardian has pointed out that this advice and these court cases may have ramifications for other entertainment rights in Europe as well.