In a first for UK internet service providers ("ISPs"), Mr Justice Arnold has granted an order in favour of the Football Association Premier League Limited ("FAPL"), the governing body of the Premier League, requiring several ISPs including Sky, Virgin and BT to block servers which stream Premier League football content. The interest around the order stems from the fact that it only has effect when Premier League football matches are being broadcast by the ISPs and will cease to operate on the 22 May 2017, to coincide with the ending of the 2016/17 Premier League season.
Copyright blocking injunctions are not new in the UK, following the introduction of s97A Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, intellectual property right holders can seek an injunction from the court barring ISPs from providing the means for the public to access websites which offer viewing capabilities of infringing content. Indeed, this is not the first time that FAPL have sought an order under s97A. In 2013, they sought an injunction against Sky compelling them to impede or prohibit access to the well-known streaming website FirstRow Sports which streamed copyright protected football matches illegally.
However, the order granted by Mr Justice Arnold goes beyond merely requiring ISPs to implement measures to hinder their customers from accessing content which is streamed illegally. The new order will now require the affected ISPs to block the actual streaming servers themselves, rather than the streaming websites which acted as a platform to accessing the copyrighted content. The defendants made clear that the advances in technology which they already have in place would make this a viable and cost effective option. This seems to have filtered into the reasoning behind the order which Mr Justice Arnold made.
The decision has sparked discussion as to how protection of intellectual property rights must evolve to account for advancement in technology which seeks to both protect and undermine those rights.
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