Last night’s win for boxing heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua was not the only victory in the sport in recent days, as Matchroom Boxing, the sports management and promotion outfit, obtained a live blocking order in the High Court on 20 September 2018 (judgment here).
Much like its predecessor under Football Association Premier League Limited v British Telecommunications plc  EWHC 480 (Ch),  ECC 17 (“FAPL”) (as reported on this site last year here), which is designed to prevent the live streaming of Premier League fixtures, Matchroom sought to prevent access to illegitimate online broadcasts of fights by way of an order against the main internet service providers.
Background to Order
Mr Justice Arnold noted that Matchroom typically organise twenty three boxing events each year which include bouts fought by Joshua, who (still) holds four of the five heavy weight titles.
It was noted that the fourth defendant, Sky UK Limited, broadcasts these fights having exclusive agreements with the claimant, which owns the copyright in the broadcasts and films, on a pay-per-view basis, costing around £20. Sky pays Matchroom substantial fees for the rights to broadcast and both companies share profits from pay-per-view revenue.
Matchroom was intent on protecting its rights, both in terms of copyright and revenue by restricting broadcasts of rights outside the scope of their deal with Sky.
Much like that under FAPL, this order sought to tackle the growing issue of illegitimate live streams of boxing events which users could access free via third party websites.
Mr Justice Arnold referred in particular to infringing broadcasts for Joshua fights which deprive “both Matchroom and Sky of substantial revenue”.
For the same reasons as in FAPL, considering that such an order would be proportional in allowing the defendant ISPs to carry on business and at the same time “avoid[ing] creating barrirers to legitimate trade”, Matchroom were granted the order.
This required the defendants to “take measures to block, or at least impede, access by their customers to [the] streaming servers”.
Differences to FAPL
Firstly, due to the irregular timings of Matchroom’s boxing events, the target servers cannot be located in the same way as under FAPL. Instead the order requires a monitoring of servers seven days prior to a Matchroom event.
Details of how this is done are confidential and whilst Mr Justice Arnold noted the risk of “over-blocking”, the evidence before the court indicated no practical issue.
Secondly, the judgment notes that under FAPL, the server monitoring is conducted during a season where all fixtures are publically listed in advance. Noting that the boxing calendar is less systematic, the order provides that any of Matchrom’s boxing events be drawn to the defendants’ attention at least four weeks prior to the fights, so as to properly monitor any servers.
Despite the successes of orders in favour of the Football Association Premier League Ltd and Union Des Associations Européennes De Football are evidence, they are not always watertight.
Whilst it was unclear whether the ISPs even able to comply with any order just two days before the fight, there was at least one live stream of the fight via Twitter.
A French broadcast via En Mode Sport was made available by one user in high definition, in real time.
Users were able to not only stream the fight but comment underneath it, all embedded on the Twitter feed when searching #JoshuaPovektin.
Whilst it is questionable as to how popular this stream was, and how much revenue it drew away from Matchroom and Sky, it does indicate the difficulties in controlling live streams, especially those which are made legitimately aboard and made available illegitimately in the UK.