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Decoder cards get the thumbs up

16 November 2011

The European Court of Justice ruled in October that it is legal for individuals to buy TV decoder cards from foreign broadcasters.

In the long-awaited judgment in the joined cases of Football Association Premier League and Others v QC Leisure and Others and in Karen Murphy v Media Protection Services Limited the court ruled that licences between a broadcaster and a rights-owner preventing free movement of the decoder cards within the EU were contrary to EU competition law.

Basically, these form of licence agreements should not prevent broadcasters from providing services (cross-border), as that would constitute a territorial restriction and eliminate competition between broadcasters.

The English courts are still to decide on the effect of this, but it should mean that satellite decoder cards from other EU countries will be lawfully available for sale in the UK.

This could result in a major change in the way that programmes are licensed in the EU through the use of pan-EU licences rather than licences being granted on a country-by-country basis.

The likely impact on sports in the UK has been widely reported by the press, given that many sports clubs rely on the income from the present arrangements. The everyday impact on businesses and consumers will depend on how much cheaper the decoder cards are than the UK equivalent.

If you need clear and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

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Chris Wills LLB (Hons)
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