The High Court has extended for two years orders aimed at preventing internet pirates live-streaming Uefa Champions League and Europa Conference League matches. Last September, Uefa, the governing body for European football, secured orders requiring a number of internet service providers here to block the illegal live streaming of matches for the 2020-21 season. The orders were against Eircom, trading as Eir, Sky Ireland Ltd, Sky Subscribers Services Ltd, Virgin Media Ireland Ltd and Vodafone Ireland Ltd which the court heard either supported or were neutral on the Uefa application.
It was claimed matches are being shown in Ireland and elsewhere, without authorisation and in breach of Uefa’s copyright, on computers, set-top boxes and other devices.
On Wednesday, Jonathan Newman SC, for Uefa, applied to have the orders extended. He said the only substantive difference between this and the previous orders was that it was being sought for two seasons, until July 31st, 2023 or the day after the last match for the 2022/23 season is played. Lawyers for Eir, Virgin, and Vodafone were neutral on the extension application while the Sky companies were supporting it.
Mr Justice David Barniville said he was satisfied on the basis of the evidence presented to the court that it was reasonable and appropriate to extend the orders until the end of the 2022/23 season.
He noted the positions of the defendants in the case. A similar extension order, for one year, was recently granted by the judge to the Football Association Premier League company to block illegal streaming of English Premiership matches.
It is claimed that pirates are able to distribute high-quality streams which are easy for consumers to find and quickly connect to, and very little technical knowledge is required to access these streams. Similar orders have been granted in the UK.
In recent years, revenue generated from licensing the broadcast rights of Uefa’s competitions accounted for more than 80 per cent, totalling more than €2.25 billion, of its overall annual revenues. The illegal streaming, Uefa claims, damages its ability to generate revenue from its broadcasting rights. Uefa says it is a not-for-profit organisation which uses the money it earns from these competitions to promote and support football all over the continent.