LiveFooty , an Israeli owned website, which broadcasts live soccer games (illegally) got sued by the Premier League, who takes a very aggressive stance in these cases. The Premier League grants licenses for broadcasting the games to broadcasters in 207 countries. When the league’s management discovered that live-footy.org was broadcasting games, it sent a cease and decease note, but was met with a cheeky refusal.
The case rolled to the Israeli district court, who reached a surprising verdict: Watching Streaming Games Online Is Fair Use.
Tel Aviv District Court Judge Michal Agmon-Gonen said that the website owner “has shown both that the site served an important social purpose, and that its activity is not among the core activities copyrights are meant to protect. This core, the judge said, includes prose, movies, music and artistic photography“.
The Guardian reported:
the Tel Aviv District Court ruled that it was a case of “fair use” since no profit was made from the broadcasts and that, in Israeli law, breach of “broadcasting” copyright only referred to cable or wireless transmission and not streaming over the internet.
The judge, Michal Agmon-Gonen, furthermore ruled that the site had important social aims — “watching sports events is socially important and should remain in the realm of mass entertainment, and not just be for those who can afford it” — and argued that those who view online were not damaging the revenues of broadcasters. She said they were mainly “those of small means or who are not sufficiently interested in sport to pay”.
In addition, the judge refused to reveal the identity of the site’s owner and protected both the ISP Netvision and the Nana Portal:
Someone who claims breach of copyright must meet two conditions. The first is to present prima facie evidence of a breach, that will lead with a high degree of probability to proof of it. Secondly, the breaches claimed must be especially severe, wrongs committed in aggravated circumstances,” the judge said. This is because “unintentionally, millions of people infringe copyright every day; there are no grounds for disclosing their identities in such cases, but only when it is a matter of blatant and severe infringement
Live-Footy.org doesn’t reveal any information about its operator, but according to the stats link at the bottom of the page, the site has approximately 20,000 unique users in peak times.
This precedent-setting ruling is likely to get appealed and lobbied against by the studios and broadcasting right-owners (led by Premier League lawyer Meir Klinger). But for now, perhaps you can enjoy watching a Liverpool or Chelsea game online while it is legal. While we are on the topic, it is also worth mentioning another Israeli start up playing Football – check out Footbo, the social network for soccer lovers and a good place to find the latest game scores.