herald

Saturday 24 August 2019

Illegal football dodgy boxes to be blocked

Fans will have to pay to see Mohamed Salah in action
Fans will have to pay to see Mohamed Salah in action

Fans who watch live English Premiership football on illegal streaming websites, set-top 'dodgy boxes' and other devices will find the service blocked when the new season kicks off next month.

In the Commercial Court yesterday, the Football Association Premier League Limited was granted Ireland's first-ever order compelling internet service providers (ISPs) to block the live-streaming of matches.

The order is against Eircom/Eir, Sky Ireland, Sky Subscriber Services, Virgin Media and Vodafone. The ISPs were either supportive or neutral over the application, Mr Justice Robert Haughton was told.

Under the order, the content provided by the illegitimate servers or hosts, using streams from legal outlets, will be targeted using the latest advances in technology.

It will be possible to block streams across several platforms and apps "in one blow".

Overwhelming

The court heard similar blocking orders were obtained last year in the UK.

It was no longer just "a student on his couch with a laptop" but had become so overwhelming that the bulk of infringements came from people with "set-top boxes" plugged into a TV, said Jonathan Newman SC.

It was such that "perhaps a veneer of respectability" had crept into what was an illegal activity.

In a survey of 2,000 adults, 36pc were willing to admit they accessed material they were not entitled to, 19pc of whom admitted they accessed Premiership matches this way.

Fifty-one per cent did not feel guilty, such is the ubiquity of copyright infringement.

Mr Newman said the criteria for obtaining the order was clearly met and there were safeguards so it did not impact on legitimate use of the internet.

Mr Justice Haughton said he was satisfied to grant the order, and noted from the UK case that, if unchecked, illegal streaming was likely to impact on returns for the football clubs and wider sporting community.

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