25th Feb 2012

Encoding/Decoder Cards

It’s been a case of the Public(an) versus Sky Sports/the Premier League. And yesterday the High Court in London, following a decision by the European Court of Justice, found in favour of the right to show live pub football using decoder cards purchased in EU countries like Greece and Spain.

But this was a token victory because of the awkward ambiguity underpinning the legal implications. Yes, the actual live action is free from intellectual copyright given that it does not constitute a work created by either Sky or the Premier League – so decoder cards are fine here. But no, the graphics, theme tunes, edited sequences of action, etc. (shown at the start, end, and, in theory, during matches too) are not free from copyright, so pubs and other public venues must seek permission from the right holders (i.e. Sky/PL) to broadcast these extras.

So, ultimately, confusion still reigns. Of course, the best answer to the TV rights-fuelled corporate greed that has beset English football since the formation of the Sky/PL duopoly in 1992 is for us all to cancel our Sky subscriptions and head down to our local decoder-loving public house. Then we’d all get to know how much those intellectual property rights are really worth. Those encoding professionals from News Corp would, in Stuart Hall’s terms, receive oppositional decoding par excellence!

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