Volume: 15 Issue: 8
The English Premier League announced on 25 July 2017 that it has obtained a High Court Order that introduces a new block on illicit streaming of Premier League football matches for the entirety of the 2017/18 season. The High Court granted the Premier League a ‘live’ blocking Order for the first time for the remainder of the 2016/17 season on 8 March 2017, which has been deemed to be “highly effective” by the Premier League, which claims that the first Order blocked more than 5,000 servers that had been streaming its content illegally.
March’s blocking Order, which was supported by rightsholders and internet service providers, differed from those previously granted in that the Order was a ‘live’ blocking order which only had effect at the times when live Premier League match footage was being broadcast; it provided for the list of Target Servers to be ‘re-set’ each match week during the Premier League season; the Order was only for a short period of time to enable an assessment of its effectiveness and of any issues encountered, with a view to the Premier League applying for a similar order to cover the 2017/2018 season, with any changes that may seem appropriate in the light of that season’s experience; and required that a notice be sent to each hosting provider each week when one of its IP addresses was subject to blocking.
According to a statement from the Premier League, the new Order issued in July will not only require internet service providers to block servers that illegally stream matches, but “will allow the League to further combat the sale and use of illicit streaming devices, including pre-loaded IPTV and so-called ‘Kodi’ boxes.” The Premier League also noted that the previous Order issued in March resulted in a range of prominent apps and add-ons being closed down.
During the issuance of the March Order, Arnold J suggested that the efficiency of the initial ‘live’ Order in blocking infringing conduct during the trial run to the end of the 2016/17 season would likely determine whether a similar order would be granted for the 2017/18 season. The new Order granted this month differs from the original with regard to the servers to be blocked and the methods of identifying and blocking servers, however the differences are to remain confidential to prevent circumvention of the Order by those looking to access the Premier League’s content illegally.
Considering the evidence provided by the Premier League in assessing the effectiveness of the Order, Arnold J commented that March’s Order had been “very effective” in achieving the blocking of access to the target servers during Premier League matches, and that there was no evidence of over blocking.
Considering the potential implications of what the Premier League has called “its biggest ever crackdown on the illegal streaming of its content,” Colin Bell, Partner at Brabners,
believes that “it is too soon to know exactly how effective this Order will be, though the technology to track and shut down illegal streams is improving all the time. The Premier League believes it will be effective both in practice and as a deterrent. However, if the Order is less effective than hoped - or if the operators of illegal streams find new ways to avoid detection - expect the Premier League to consider other approaches, such as providing and monetising its own streaming services to counteract the illegal streams.”