UK High Court issues another blocking order against operator of live sports indexing website

by Béatrice Martinet Farano

On 16 July 2013, in the wake of the wave of blocking orders that have recently been issued  in Europe against an increasing number of websites arguably dedicated to infringing content, the UK High Court ordered the major ISPs of the country to block access to FirstRow, a website providing its users with links to live sports events.

What was different from preceding blocking orders issued by this Court (see Newzbin and The Pirate Bay, Newsletter No. 2/2012 p. 9-10), was that in this case, FirstRow only provided links – rather than direct access to – the unauthorized streams.

The Court however held that by (1) aggregating a large number of streams from a variety of streamers, (2) indexing them for user convenience and (3) providing for the use of a simple click through mechanism to access each stream, the operator was either directly – or at least indirectly – responsible for the communication of these unauthorized streams to the public. To that extent, the Court also stressed that FirstRow (1) only accepted embedded codes from trusted streamers and (2) none of the streams were provided by an official source. Relying on the ECJ decision in TV Catchup (see Newsletter No. 2/2013 p. 10), the Court then observed that this communication did not have to be made to a new public to be considered an infringing communication. The Court finally observed that this communication had taken place in the UK since FirstRow, by offering a service in English, used by English users, did target the English public. The Court concluded that FirstRow (which did not appear in this case) directly or at least indirectly infringed the rights of FAPL, owner of the rights over these sporting events.