Advocate General Considers Territorial Broadcasting Restrictions Incompatible with European Law

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Football Association Premier League Ltd and Others v QC Leisure and Others concerns the legality of the use of satellite decoders purchased outside the United Kingdom to show Premier League football matches in public houses in the United Kingdom. The Advocate General concluded that the territorial exclusive licensing system in question was incompatible with the free movement of services and with competition rules under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

On 3 February 2011, Advocate General Juliane Kokott delivered her opinion in the case of Football Association Premier League Ltd and Others v QC Leisure and Others. The case, a preliminary reference to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), concerns the legality of the use of satellite decoders purchased outside the United Kingdom to show Premier League football matches in public houses in the United Kingdom.

The Advocate General’s opinion, which is not binding on the ECJ, concluded that the territorial exclusive licensing system in question was incompatible with the free movement of services and with competition rules under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. According to the Advocate General, the contractual obligation linked to the broadcasting licences requiring the broadcaster to prevent its satellite decoder cards from being used outside the licensed territory has the same effect as agreements to prevent or restrict parallel exports. Such restrictions are prohibited under EU law as they grant absolute territorial protection, which is incompatible with the internal market. On the facts, the Advocate General opined that the purchase of a Greek decoder card was payment for the broadcast service, and the purchaser therefore is free under European Law to enjoy that service throughout the European Union.

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