The European Commission has launched consultations on the application of the Conditional Access Directive to Pay TV services. The Conditional Access Directive, which was adopted in 1998, enables Pay TV broadcasters to provide their services throughout the European Union. An important element of this is the rule that the copyright rules in the country of reception of the Pay TV channel will not be infringed as long as the broadcaster has satisfied the copyright rules in the country from which it is broadcasting. The Conditional Access Directive also prohibits the sale of “illicit” (or pirate) decoders that facilitate the reception of Pay TV channels for free.

However, the Commission has become concerned that the Conditional Access Directive does not adequately address the issue of parallel imports of decoders whereby a consumer buys a decoder in one EU Member State (often using false details) to watch channels in another Member State. This issue is currently the subject of a case before the European Court of Justice. The English Football Premier League is suing a number of UK pub owners for broadcasting matches using decoders bought from a Greek broadcaster which held the rights for the Greek market and provided the matches at a much cheaper rate than the UK broadcaster. The Premier League considers that this infringes its rights in the United Kingdom as the rights had been granted exclusively to BSkyB for the UK market.

The consultation document requests views on the subject of parallel imports as well as other issues. Responses should be sent to the Commission before 4 April 2009.