Football and movie streaming injunctions? Copyright enforcement catches up to the internet age
The days of streaming football and other entertainment on the internet may be numbered.
Towards the end of the 2016-2017 season the Premier League successfully applied for an injunction against the illegal streaming of live football matches. Instead of targeting the websites that provide outlets for the streams, with the help of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the IP addresses from which streams originate were identified and blocked in real time as live matches were broadcast .
The injunction only took effect at the times when Premier League matches were being played. However, the list of IP addresses and servers to be blocked were re-set each week. Therefore those that stopped streaming football illegally were un-blocked, and new infringers could be identified and targeted.
The success of the initial injunction has lead to another being granted for the entirety of the 2017/2018 season. The injunction is beneficial not only to the Premier League, but to ISPs Sky and BT themselves, who collectively paid over £5 billion for TV rights in 2015.
So – where might this lead us?
Since the advent of the era of home internet use, there has existed a notion that online activities should – and do – take place beyond the reach of the laws of the “real world”. Of course, this is not true: copyright law does indeed apply to the internet. It is enforcement of the law that has been the problem. But, whereas once the latest films were only available at your local Blockbuster, for example, renting movies is now almost an exclusively online experience. It is, perhaps, harder for the public and lawmakers alike to imagine that the law should not apply. As the internet becomes evermore intertwined with all aspects of daily life, copyright law may, by default, be enforced primarily in respect of online activities.
As it did with music fans using Napster in the U.S., the law has now caught up with those streaming football in the UK. Following the precedent for copyright protection set by the Premier League, it may not be much longer before other industries seek similar remedies against those that enable illegal online streaming. Whilst monitoring live Premier League match streaming is a far cry from monitoring all internet entertainment streams all of the time, it is not unthinkable that one day streamers of films and TV shows could see their entertainment cut off at the source.
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