Live blocking orders have once again made the headlines as the Union of European Football Associations, the governing body of European football, successfully applied for the prevention of illegal streaming of their fixtures online.
UEFA pursued the six main retail internet service providers in the UK for copyright infringement, arguing it owns the copyright in the television broadcasts of all UK matches in UEFA competitions (judgment here).
Such measures have already been successfully sought against ISPs to block access to the streaming servers that showcase content without rights holders’ permission (as reported by this site here where Premier League games were the subject of the order).
The order applies only while matches are being played. During this time ISPs are required to block IP addresses, which are compiled into a list freshly drawn up each week. This not only ensures new servers are identified regularly, the details of which are then used by the ISPs for blocking, but also incentivises those running the servers to refrain from hosting such content, as once the material is removed, the server will no longer be subject to the order.
The organisation applied for the injunction pursuant to section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (which implements Article 8(3) of Directive 2001/29/EC), requesting that ISPs take measures to block, or at least impede, access by their customers to streaming servers which deliver infringing live streams of the UEFA competition matches to UK consumers.
Currently, BT Sport pays approximately £360 million each football season for the right to broadcast the fixtures. Any unlicensed broadcast therefore not only undermines the value of that contract but prevents UEFA from being able to manage its content properly.
Whilst live blocking orders have been the method of choice in the UK for preventing streams of matches, other approaches have proven successful elsewhere.
In 2015, LaLiga (the top tier Spanish league) launched software ‘Marauder’. The aim of the Marauder was to tackle online illegal streaming and copyright infringement of LaLiga footage. Marauder identifies infringing content by looking for particular words or phrases on sites and applications. The ISP and the those responsible for the server are then located and sent an automated response requesting the removal of the infringing content.
This approach had proved to be effective, as an internal report commissioned by LaLiga showed that the total number of reported infringing videos online during the 2016-17 season was 157,864, and that 98% of these videos were removed.
With such a high success rate, the UK entities may well consider Marauder’s model in the future, should the blocking orders prove less effective than hoped.