THE EUROPEAN WORLD OF SPORTS has thrown its weight against a sports streaming website and ensured that its turnstiles are closed in time for the new football season.
A bunch of outfits including the Premier League, Rugby Football Union, UEFA, PGA European Tour, the Football Association and the Football League asked for an injunction against Firstrow Sports and got it.
"The scale of Firstrow's activities is very large. There are a large number of links listed on the site at any one time. Firstrow was ranked by Alexa as the 268th most popular website in the UK in January 2013 and the 239th most popular in April 2013," they said in their legal papers.
"To put that in perspective, Firstrow was on that basis more popular, in January 2013, than both www.lastminute.com and www.ft.com. In April 2013 alone, Firstrow received 9.98 million unique user hits worldwide."
According to the filing this level of traffic has lead to "considerable" financial gains from advertising and "affiliation revenues".
"Expert witness Dr David Price estimates that Firstrow is likely to be generating between £5,360,680 and £9,505,564 in annual revenue," it added. "Many of the streamers are also motivated by financial reward, since they are able to add their own adverts to the streams."
Repeated attempts to contact the firm and request takedowns have been ignored, said the claimants, and a registered address is bogus. The firm is a linking website, so whether it will have any impact on football matches being shared is anyone's guess. We assume that users will just go elsewhere.
We tried to access the website using Firefox on a Windows machine with a Virgin Media connection and got right in. There we could access streams of live games including Arsenal vs Vietnam and Chelsea vs the Thai Star Team.
According to the High Court ruling the website will be banned before the start of the football season in August. It hasn't appeared on Sky's list of blocked websites yet, and we are waiting for comment from the other large ISPs.
"I am satisfied that the orders sought are proportionate for the reasons advanced by FAPL (the Premier League). The interests of FAPL and the supporting rightholders in enforcing their copyrights clearly outweigh the Article 11 EU Charter rights of the users of the websites, who can obtain the copyright works from lawful sources," said the judge in the ruling.
"They even more clearly outweigh the Article 11 rights of the operators of the websites, who are profiting from infringement on a large scale." µ