The landlady, Sky & The European Court of Justice

66 posts in this topic

This could prove to be an interesting case for us expats, not to mention European football, the FA & premier leagues in particular, and Sky TV.

 

A pub landlady, fined for using the cheaper Greek satellite TV system to show European football in her pub, looks set to win her appeal to the European Court of Justice after arguing that European law entitles anyone in the EU to buy and sell products and services freely across the EU. The Advocate General has said "The exclusivity agreement relating to transmission of football matches are contrary to European Union law". The final judgement won't be known for several months but the court rarely goes against the advice it is given.

 

It could have far reaching consequences, not least of all for the various football associations and especially Sky TV who earn an absolute mint peddling the rights to keep people from watching sports on free TV. It would also mean, taken to its logical conclusion, that you can sign up for any European satellite service you like, wherever you live in the EU.

 

The BBC have a report here.

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This case is fraught with other problems.. one of them being that she was showing the games in a public bar and she had not paid for these rights..

 

People still have the choice of what TV service they wish to subscribe to.

 

The fact that many "expats" do not have a UK address to where the systems can be registered, will not help the Expat case in any way at all!

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Ah, but that's the point - if this case gets upheld then you won't need a UK address to sign up for Sky. They'll be obliged to sign up anyone in the EU.

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The content providers could demand higher prices for wider coverage/increased audience, which in turn could push up prices for the end customer. I'd expect the increased cost to be covered by more subscriptions, so this probably wouldn't happen but you never know.

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Surely the whole shebang (why do I love that word) will probably be affected? Movie premieres, Formula 1, big fight night etc. etc.

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They'll be obliged to sign up anyone in the EU.

 

No, they won't: no business is forced to sell to anyone. Of course, usually a business is not that picky and they'll take your money but they can choose not to.

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Saw the BBC article on this this morning. Somebody from the TV companies was making the argument it would reduce choice as companies would be forced to have pan-European licensing.

 

So instead of being forced to buy from Sky you'd be forced to buy from , er, Sky.

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You're probably right from a purely practical viewpoint. How many people are going to want to get their movies, etc from Sky (or their 'home' provider) using 1 receiver, card and a dish pointing at 1 (or more) satellites and get another receiver with a different card pointing at a totally different satellite just to watch football? This is very probably only going to be interesting for a few sat-geeks, the relatively few expats (of any country) in Europe and pubs showing 'football only'.

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This case is fraught with other problems.. one of them being that she was showing the games in a public bar and she had not paid for these rights..

 

That BBC article says: Ms Murphy had been convicted for using the cheaper Greek subscription to show top flight football in her pub., so she had been paying for it, just not paying Sky.

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The ruling must surely effect all services though? Movies, TV etc.

 

From a purely practical point of view it's hard to imagine Italian TV going out of their way to sell their services in Ireland and I can also imagine that the TV companies would have some concerns about quality of service but as Bavaria Satellite shows day in day out there is a small market there and a good service can be provided for these niche markets.

 

I do sometimes suspect the big film companies are worrying over nothing. After all if you really want it in your own language you're downloading it for free over the internet anyway and they get nowt. :ph34r:

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No, they won't: no business is forced to sell to anyone.

 

Oh yes they will. It is certainly not legal for an EU business to refuse to sell something 'because you're a Greek' or whatever. That is what free and unfettered trade throughout the EU is all about.

 

Currently Sky are saying that to watch Premier League football (for example) you pay one price in the UK, another somewhere else and if you don't live in the UK you can't have the UK package and this whole case is about the legality of that stance. Essentially it's their rights to restrict and control their audience as some sort of profiteer copyright holder against EU law saying that goods and services are freely tradeable across the EU.

 

It could make for a very interesting case.

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It will be interesting. But it could also make things worse for your average football fan. Currently, the English FA prices their product at over €700 million a year for Sky UK and considerably less for other EU pay TV companies. If the restrictions are lifted between countries, then they will have to charge everyone the same. Apart from Sky UK, nobody else will be prepared to pay this amount, so all other subscription services will drop the premier league. The same will happen for all other football leagues and all other Pay TV subscriptions, as the interest at home is always greater than abroad. This will leave the consumer considerably worse off, because then you'll only be able to watch the home league of whichever pay TV company you subscribe to.

 

One alternative is that a soccer channel springs up and buys the rights to all EU leagues and shows them EU wide, but given that they'll be paying the full cost for every league, this isn't going to be cheap. Obviously, the prices will still have to reflect what the market is willing to pay for it, so the various football associations will almost certainly have to cut their prices.

 

Another alternative is that each football league has a dedicated channel that's available throughout Europe on every pay TV carrier and you pay for them seperately, and pay the same price, no matter where you live.

 

In the end, I don't think that the consumer will win here...

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It is certainly not legal for an EU business to refuse to sell something 'because you're a Greek' or whatever. That is what free and unfettered trade throughout the EU is all about.

 

No, it isn't. The 'trade anywhere' is about business being allowed to tout for business anywhere within the EU NOT about consumers having the absolute right to buy from whoever they want in the EU. If a German company doesn't want to be bothered with shipping outside of Germany, they are not forced to do so. Similarly, if Sky does not want to sell a package and equipment outside the UK & Ireland it is not forced to do so.

 

The different issue here is broadcast rights. The copyright owner(s) have been selling rights to the broadcasters based on different rates and to different territories. This has now been put into question. I guess in a similar way that VW and other car-makers were dragged before the courts for their practise of only servicing cars bought within their own territory, ie: the way you do business should be the same across territories within the EU otherwise you are distorting the 'free' market.

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If a German company doesn't want to be bothered with shipping outside of Germany, they are not forced to do so. Similarly, if Sky does not want to sell a package and equipment outside the UK & Ireland it is not forced to do so.

No problem with that, but then it should not be "illegal" for me to buy said product from somebody who is willing to buy it on my behalf in Germany and ship it to my villa in Spain and similarly, pay some UK-based Sky pusher to supply me with the service that Sky is not obliged to.

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No problem with that, but then it should not be "illegal" for me to buy said product from somebody who is willing to buy it on my behalf in Germany and ship it to my villa in Spain and similarly, pay some UK-based Sky pusher to supply me with the service that Sky is not obliged to.

 

Probably correct. But then it's back to the broadcasting rights/territories issue which has been called into question now.

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It would be interesting to see what happened if one day MrNosey goes into a shop and the shop keeper refuses to sell him something, but happily serves the next in line, in some arbitrary fashion.

 

Actually I think this case is how the two points you make in your two paragraphs meet, view through the prism of EU law. I'm not entirely sure that your first paragraph is correct, and not anal enough to Google it. It's true that a company doesn't have to make any special effort to sell a product outside a territory, and can probably refuse to ship to other countries, but if I buy something in the EU then it's a fairly well tested point that I can take it with me and use it freely wherever I go in the EU. Why should satellite decoders, and the copyrights behind them, be any different? That's the question the court will answer.

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No problem with that, but then it should not be "illegal" for me to buy said product from somebody who is willing to buy it on my behalf in Germany and ship it to my villa in Spain

 

It's not illegal for you to buy it. It is illegal for you to sign a contract to say you will only use a service or product in one territory then actually use it in another. They will happily and legally sell it to you, but you are then breaking the contract you agreed to. It's a subtle difference.

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The case in question is about the legality of those clauses and if the court holds the line of the advice then those clauses will have to be removed.

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