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EU Shakes Up Exclusive Broadcasting Contracts

(CN) - British citizens can watch televised soccer without paying for expensive satellite subscriptions that offer exclusive access to such broadcasts, the European Union's Court of Justice ruled, giving the green light for fans to use inexpensive devices that pick up transmissions meant for foreign nations.

Pubs still face an obstacle, however, since the court also ruled that public showings of copy-protected works require authorization from the broadcaster.

Although the concept of a sole license fits with the model of a single, unified European market, sole broadcasting rights for different EU territories does not, the Luxembourg-based court clarified. The decision follows the recommendation of an adviser issued in February.

Splitting broadcasting markets into exclusive territories creates artificial price differences, according to the Tuesday decision.

As such, a ban on set-top boxes with decoder cards - for example, imported from Greece - constitutes an undue restriction on the free movement of services within the EU, the court said.

In making the determination, the court ruled that the Football Association Premier League cannot claim copyright over the actual soccer match, only certain music and video clips constituting its own creations.

Any public showing that includes these elements would therefore constitute a copyright violation.

The ruling is likely to change the way European broadcasters - in this case, the British Sky Broadcasting Group - buy rights.

BSkyB reportedly paid more than $1.5 billion for Premier League broadcast rights.

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