In March 2017, the Premier League obtained a blocking injunction from the High Court which compelled ISPs including BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media to block unauthorized soccer streams under Section 97a of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act.
Given the claimed success of the blockades and the problem of live sports piracy generally, other sports organizations showed interest in the scheme. One of those was Matchroom, the owner, manager, and promoter of various sporting events.
Although the company has interests in darts, snooker, and poker, it is best known for its involvement in boxing. World champion Anthony Joshua and former champions Kell Brook and Tony Bellew have all featured in Matchroom bouts, and all of these events have been heavily pirated online.
Now, however, Matchroom is hoping to put an end to that practice in the UK following a successful application to the High Court.
Following in the footsteps of the Premier League, Matchroom applied for an injunction against ISPs BT, EE, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk, and Virgin Media. None of the ISPs appeared to represent themselves and either supported or did not oppose the application. As a result, the application was considered “on paper”.
Sky has an exclusive agreement with Matchroom to broadcast the company’s events. Matchroom owns the copyrights when Anthony Joshua fights and Sky owns them when other fighters appear. However, Joshua is fighting this Saturday night against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley so for the sake of these proceedings, Sky assigned the rights to Matchroom.
Anthony Joshua is a huge draw and according to the High Court order, his previous fights have been heavily pirated, depriving both Matchroom and Sky of substantial pay-per-view revenue. Since Sky is losing money from piracy, the company supports Matchroom’s application as it did with the Premier League’s.
While the blocking order sought was similar to those previously granted to the Premier League and later UEFA, there are two key differences.
“First, because of the irregular timing of the Events, and in particular PPV Events, it is not possible for the Target Servers to be identified in quite the same way,” Justice Arnold writes.
“Although the criteria are very similar, they are to be applied by a particular form of monitoring carried out in a seven-day period prior to each Event. The details of this are confidential, in order to prevent circumvention. While it creates a theoretically greater risk of over-blocking, Matchroom’s evidence is that in practice there should be no real difference.”
Secondly, the Premier League and UEFA orders cover part or all of a season, dates that are already planned. In the boxing world, however, dates of bouts are fluid, so Matchroom has been granted the ability to notify the ISPs of upcoming events at least four weeks in advance.
“[T]he order is proportionate. It does not impair the rights of the Defendants to carry on business,” Justice Arnold writes.
“To the limited extent that it interferes with the rights of internet users to impart or receive information, the interference is justified by a legitimate aim, namely preventing infringement of Matchroom’s and Sky’s rights on a large scale, and it is proportionate to that aim.
“It will be effective and dissuasive, no equally effective but less onerous measures are available to Matchroom, it avoids creating barriers to legitimate trade, it is not unduly complicated or costly and it contains safeguards against misuse.”
The order handed down by the High Court in Matchroom’s favor will run for two years and will be in place to tackle piracy during this Saturday’s much-anticipated fight.