Arnold J has effectively renewed a March 2017 injunction, requiring UK ISPs to now block access to servers infringing the Premier League's copyright in the 2017/18 Premier League.
On 25 July 2017 the High Court granted the Premier League an injunction for the whole 2017/18 Premier League season, in much the same form as an earlier order, granted in March 2017, which applied until the end of the 2016/17 season. The injunctions are “live” blocking orders under s97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 and are believed to be the first of their kind.
The Premier League was unopposed in both applications by the defendants, nine UK ISPs, many of which were themselves licensees of Premier League content.
The application came on the back of the Premier League’s recent use of “proprietary video fingerprinting technology”, allowing it to identify in real time servers supporting infringing live streams of content (the copyright of which is owned by the Premier League) including game footage and ancillary content such as replays and graphics.
Only active during Premier League games, the orders require the defendant ISPs to immediately block servers identified by the Premier League’s technology as infringing Premier League copyright. Previously, blocking orders had been thwarted by online pirates changing the IP addresses of their servers when blocked. Through the use of the defendants’ automatic blocking technology, even servers that periodically change IP address during games can be blocked, in turn bringing down the many streams relying on them.
In his March 2017 decision, Arnold J highlighted the impact of previous blocking orders on infringement, suggesting that the efficacy of the initial “live” orders in blocking infringing conduct during their trial run to the end of the 2016/17 season would be likely to determine whether they would return for the 2017/18 season. In granting an order for the entirety of the 2017/18 season, Arnold J appears to have been convinced by the Premier League’s evidence showing that the orders had been effective in blocking access to the infringing servers during matches and that "overblocking” had not occurred.
The July 2017 order does differ from the original order granted in March 2017 with regard to the servers to be blocked and the methods of identifying and blocking servers. The exact differences are to remain confidential in order to prevent pirates working around the order; evidence of such efforts was presented to Arnold J ahead of his July decision.
The illegal streaming market has recently seen significant changes, with increasing numbers of users preferring to use set-top boxes pre-loaded with software allowing access to illegal streams, rather than accessing the streams via URLs. Against this background, Arnold J’s orders represent a determined judicial commitment to support rights holders in their battle to react to the constantly evolving world of online copyright infringement.