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June 2007

Clubs are warned to take care over foreign-supplied T.V.

Readers will recall that I have repeatedly warned of the risk of prosecution if Clubs use foreign decoder cards to show televised Premier League
football matches.

There has been a lot of feedback from Clubs on this subject and I have been in touch with the body that protects the rights of the F.A. Premier League - Media Protection Services (M.P.S.).

They have spelled out, fully, the steps that are taken to stop the illegal commercial showing (in pubs and Clubs) of these matches.

These carry the ultimate sanction of prosecution which could result in a big fine and a hefty bill of costs.

M.P.S. admits that there is a vast amount of misinformation on the internet which is circulated by the importers of, and dealers in, the decoder cards which, they say, is backed by a "handful of solicitors".

Any licensee or Club Secretary who appears to be using a foreign decoder card is sent a legal notice warning of the criminal offence they are committing if they use such a card.

If the notice is ignored then an undercover visit will be paid to the premises and prosecution of the responsible person is likely to be set in train.

Media Protection Services says that among the misinformation is the contention that "European Directives" make it legally possible to use foreign decoder cards. This is not so and there is no directive which takes away the power of copyright owners to protect their copyright under British Law.

It is also contended by the dealers that overseas broadcasters have bought "rights" to show Premiership games and purchase of the decoder cards entitles people to show the matches. Again this is not so. The only company assigned rights by the copyright owner (Premier League Ltd.), in the U.K., is BSkyB.

Foreign broadcasters are assigned rights to show the games to residents of their specific contractual territory. M.P.S. stated clearly: "No
foreign broadcaster can, or does, claim rights to show matches within the U.K."

Letters from various foreign broadcasters making this position clear are now also served on potential offenders with the Legal Notice.

There is also a contention, say M.P.S., that the Department of Culture Media and Sport has issued a letter confirming that the use of foreign cards in the U.K. is legal.

This again is not so and is based on a letter from the Department which accepted that it was not illegal to bring cards into the country but which went on to make it clear that use

of the cards was an infringement of copyright and a criminal offence. It also emphasised that BSkyB was the only copyright holder.

M.P.S. also rules out that there is a defence to a prosecution that the signals received by an overseas broadcaster are `halted and delayed' before they are rebroadcast.

Prosecutions are still being launched against licensees and dealers in cards.

Media Protection Services can be contacted on 01462 676664; e-mail; Media In the legal notice issued on behalf of the Premier League and BSkyB it is stated clearly:

"No individual or company is authorised to sell you a system or decoder card issued by an overseas broadcaster to enable you to receive .... transmissions - neither is any fee paid to such an individual or company an `applicable fee' that enables you to receive the transmissions without a BSkyB commercial agreement."

The notice advises anyone to ignore any representation made by suppliers of foreign decoder cards that they are offering a valid subscription for receipt of signals from the overseas broadcaster.

Overseas broadcasters, licensed by the F.A. Premier League to receive matches in their territory, have confirmed that decoder cards that they issue remain their property and are authorised for use in their territory.

They confirm it is not possible to buy a subscription direct from an overseas broadcaster to receive Premiership matches in the U.K.

Anyone who is in any doubt about the contents of the notice is advised to seek "independent legal advice."

Media Protection Services say that their information hotline number is: 01462 676664 and state: "Calls are in confidence but can be phoned in anonymously after hours."

Many Clubs will have received apparently convincing documentation from the European Satellite Television Association (E.S.TA.)

The A.C.C.'s advice is that overtures from this group should be ignored.

The Association of Conservative Clubs does not act for, or support, BSkyB. In the Association's opinion Sky's charges to Clubs are too high and have been so for some time. It is, perhaps, as a result of these high charges, that groups such as E.S.T.A. have been able to convince so many outlets to broadcast foreign supplied T. Y.

The A.C.C. has had meetings with BSkyB and has informed them that their charges are simply too high - and they would sign up many more Clubs if charges were reduced - but to no effect.