Following on from the Football Association Premier League ("FAPL") obtaining a live blocking injunction for the 2018/19 Premier League season last week, it was the turn today of the Union Des Associations Européenes De Football ("UEFA") to obtain their own live blocking injunction for 2018/19.
UEFA obtained their first live blocking injunction in December 2017 to cover the latter rounds of that seasons' Champions League and Europa League competitions (the "First Order", our blog on which can be seen here). Like FAPL's live blocking injunctions (which we have blogged about here, here and here) the application was brought against BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media (the "Defendants"). As was also the case with FAPL's actions, the Defendants either approved of or did not contest the action.
The purpose of the First Order was to grant a live blocking injunction to allow the blocking of access to, or at least impede access to, illegal streams of Champions League and Europa League matches as the matches were in progress from the Round of 16 (Champions League) or Round of 32 (Europa League) games all the way through to the finals of the respective competitions.
Mr Justice Arnold has today granted a fresh order to UEFA for the entirety of the 2018/19 Champions League and Europa League campaigns. As with FAPL's most recent order, although the application was not opposed by the Defendants, the court had to be satisfied that granting a fresh order was justified.
UEFA were able to provide evidence that the First Order was very effective in blocking access to target servers during Champions League and Europa League matches. There was also no evidence of over-blocking found despite checks being made. There was one incident of a stream being erroneously blocked, but not due to overblocking. The stream in question was actually an infringing stream, it was just not covered by the terms of the First Order.
The order granted by Arnold J differs from the First Order in three respects:
- Additional UEFA competitions are covered;
- The subset of infringing streaming servers to be blocked is enlarged; and
- The requirement to notify hosting providers is made subject to a short delay. This is to combat the attempts made to circumvent the First Order, evidence of which was provided by UEFA to show this is a real concern.
On the basis of the evidence before him, Arnold J was satisfied that granting the order was justified. (No details of the evidence are provided in his very short judgment.)
This reinforces the point in our blog on FAPL's latest order last week that live blocking injunctions are here to stay. The courts believe these are highly effective and extremely well targeted as, even when they get it ever so slightly wrong, they still end up blocking ultimately infringing streams.
We suspect the next stage will be seeing whether FAPL or UEFA are confident enough to request, and whether the courts are prepared to grant, injunctions that extend beyond a single season of competition. Rights holders like FAPL and UEFA are ultimately going to want to achieve the blocking of illegal streams as cost-effectively as possible and removing the need to obtain a fresh order each season would achieve this.
The counterpoint to this is that obtaining a fresh order each season allows rights holders to address new servers that have arisen over the course of the previous season, and to address any attempts that were made to circumvent the previous seasons' order. The rights holders and ISPs may ultimately decide to continue with the current procedure for the next few seasons and see how matters progress before deciding on this.