Pub landlady wins decoder battle
Published 24/02/2012 | 11:22
A pub landlady is celebrating a "fantastic" legal victory over her use of a foreign decoder to show Premier League football matches.
Prosecutors conceded in the High Court that Karen Murphy's convictions for using the cheaper Greek decoder in her Portsmouth pub to bypass controls over match screening was legally flawed and could not stand.
Reflecting on a long-running legal contest fought out at fixtures in many courts, with a legal bill thought to exceed well over £200,000, Mrs Murphy said her victory was "fantastic news", adding: "It's great news for pubs. I hope it changes the face of football."
But the Premier League said it was only a limited victory and would not prevent clubs and pubs being pursued in the courts for copyright violations if they persist in showing live matches.
Instead of using Sky, which has the rights to screen the Premier League in the UK, Ms Murphy used the Greek station Nova's coverage in her pub, which was cheaper than the equivalent Sky package. She paid £800 a year for a Greek decoder, saying she "couldn't afford" Sky's charge of £700 a month at The Red, White and Blue in Portsmouth, Hants.
Mrs Murphy, 47, was prosecuted because the league's sole licensee in the UK and Ireland authorised to issue decoder cards for live games is BSkyB.
She was convicted at Portsmouth Magistrates' Court in January 2007 of "dishonestly" receiving two match broadcasts the previous year "with intent to avoid payment of any charge applicable to the reception of the programme". She was ordered to pay almost £8,000 in fines and costs.
The convictions under section 297(1) of the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988 were upheld by Portsmouth Crown Court.
But Mrs Murphy fought on to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) which ruled in October 2011 that an EU member state having an exclusive decoder system was "contrary to EU law". In light of that ruling, the High Court in London said Mrs Murphy's Nova card could not be said to be an "illicit device" and she had not acted dishonestly.
However Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, sitting with Mr Justice Barling, stressed the Murphy case had no bearing "on other issues relating to copyright or other intellectual property rights", such as those in the case of "QC Leisure".