UEFA Wins Two-Year Extension to Streaming Piracy Blocking Order

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UEFA, the governing body of football in Europe, has obtained an extension to a High Court injunction that requires major ISPs to block consumer access to pirated streams in Ireland. The plan is to continue blocking measures so that pirating customers of Eir, Sky, Virgin Media, and Vodafone can less easily watch UEFA Champions League and Europa Conference League matches.

Red CardWhen football fans choose to watch matches via pirated streams, top-tier football gets nervous. As a result, entities such as the Premier League have expended considerable resources attempting to shut down or otherwise undermine pirate streaming operations.

The key weapon of choice is server and IP address blocking. This aims to sever the link between pirate infrastructure and consumers but for that, football entities require cooperation from ISPs. That cooperation is facilitated by High Court injunctions issued in both Great Britain and Ireland that require ISPs to block access to pirate resources.

UEFA Follows The Premier League Model

After successes in the UK, the Premier League took similar action in Ireland. In 2019, the Commerical Court gave the Premier League the green light to block pirate servers until June 30, 2020. Then last year, just before that permission ran out, the Premier League obtained an extension for the 2020/21 season. It recently obtained a further extension to cover the 2021/22 season.

Following the model of the Premier League, UEFA has also sought permission from the courts to implement a blocking program. In 2017, UEFA obtained its first injunction in the UK, and in 2020 achieved similar success in Ireland.

The injunction, which covered Eir (Eircom), Sky Ireland Ltd, Sky Subscribers Services Ltd, Virgin Media Ireland Ltd and Vodafone Ireland Ltd, required the ISPs to block subscriber access to various IP addresses identified as being part of pirate IPTV infrastructure. However, that injunction only covered the 2020-21 season, meaning that UEFA needed to return to court for an extension.

UEFA Obtains Extension to High Court Injunction

The documents supporting the latest injunction are yet to be made public but if previous injunctions are any indicator, the High Court will not publish anything that details how the scheme works in practice. There are some basic details being distributed, however.

According to the Irish Times, the extended injunction targets the same set of ISPs as those contained in the original order. None of the ISPs contested the order, with Eir, Virgin and Vodafone presenting a neutral stance and Sky coming out in support.

The plan itself remains unchanged, in that it plans to give those using computers and piracy-configured set-top boxes a harder time when it comes to receiving illegal streams, by blocking them before and during live matches. These measures can be easily circumvented with the use of a VPN but UEFA clearly believes that blocking is worth both the time and effort.

Terms of Previous Injunction Remain Largely Unchanged

When the Premier League obtained its most recent injunction in Ireland, it was reported that it had been given permission to use enhanced measures to disrupt pirated streams.

The nature of those measures is not for public consumption but it was expected that UEFA would seek to follow suit with improvements to its application. However, according to UEFA lawyer Jonathan Newman SC, there is no substantive difference between this order and the previous orders, other than the injunction being sought for two seasons rather than one.

Justice David Barniville, who has handled these types of injunctions in the past, was happy with the evidence presented to the court and agreed it would be appropriate to extend the orders until the end of the 2022/23 season.

When the injunction is published by the court it will appear here


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