BSkyB warns pubs over foreign broadcasts

British satellite broadcaster BSkyB and the English Premier League said they would pursue publicans showing football matches on the cheap, despite a legal victory for a landlady who screened action via a Greek network.

On Friday the High Court in London overturned the conviction of Karen Murphy, who runs a pub in Portsmouth, on England's south coast.

Murphy had been ordered to pay almost 8,000 pounds in fines and costs for using a foreign decoder to access English games shown live in Greece.

Hopes that the long-running case would drive down the price of screening games in pubs across the land have been dashed by the technicalities of rulings on the issue.

Murphy had won a partial victory last October in the European Court of Justice, which said it was not illegal to import a foreign decoder, a ruling that allowed her to clear her name on Friday.

However, a related test case has asserted that the Premier League retains copyright control over some of the material that goes on screen during matches.

Tony Ghee, a lawyer with London firm TaylorWessing, said that nuance meant those trying to undercut BSkyB had "fallen at the last hurdle."

He noted that official Premier League logos and anthems were protected by copyright and that would outlaw the unauthorised transmission of broadcasts intended for foreign markets.

"They need clearance from Sky and the Premier League to show those bits," he said. "Next season's coverage will have as much of that kind of material in there as they can stuff in."

BSkyB had already started writing to publicans warning them against using imported foreign broadcasts.

"The UK courts have already ruled that the unauthorised use of the Premier League's copyrighted material via foreign satellite systems in pubs infringes copyright and is therefore illegal," a Sky spokesman said.

"This remains the case following the ruling in the Murphy case. We will continue to protect our legitimate customers by supporting action against licensees who break the law."

The spectacular growth of the Premier League over the past two decades has been underwritten by its partnership with the satellite broadcaster.

BSkyB has an estimated 44,000 pubs, clubs and offices signed up to its Premier League football services and they pay around 1,000 pounds per month.