The legal battle against music piracy and the illegal streaming of top-flight football such as Premier League matches dominates cases in the high court, an analysis shows.
Football and music bodies were the top three claimants last year, bringing almost 300 cases against pirates in the ongoing battle to protect the value of the multi-billion pound industries.
More than 100 cases were brought by the music licensing and performance rights body PPL, formerly known as Phonographic Performance Ltd, in the year to the end of March 2017. The Football Association brought 39 cases and the Performing Right Society 27.
The FA has stepped up the number of actions in recent years – it brought five cases in 2013 – as the illegal streaming of matches on services such as Facebook and via pirate set-top boxes gathers pace.
The governing body of UK football has focused its clampdown on owners of pubs and bars that are either not paying a full fee or using illegal streaming services such as Kodi boxes that circumvent the need to pay rights holders to watch sport.
“Pubs are feeling the brunt,” said Ciara Cullen, a partner at the professional services firm RPC, which analysed the cases brought to the high court.
Sky and BT, which own billions of pounds of rights to sport including Premier League and Champions League football, made the top 10 list of claimants with 14 cases between them. Sky, which paid more than £4bn for the rights to air the lion’s share of Premier League matches in the UK, has been particularly aggressive in seeking to make an example of pirates to deter others.
In two recent cases, Sky won damages against an individual who illegally streamed the Anthony Joshua’s hugely popular world title fights against Wladimir Klitschko on Facebook, which attracted 600,000 viewers, and in another case against a Bristol man who illegally streamed Sky Sports on a pirate blog.
Andrew Griffith, the group chief operating officer at Sky, said: “We are in the middle of a significant shift in tackling this type of piracy, a fightback that is making it harder and harder for people to stream content illegally.”
The Premier League won an injunction earlier this year that called on internet service providers such as Sky, BT and Virgin Media to block live football streams. This has had a real impact on the number of people visiting these sites.
RPC found that bodies representing the music industry accounted for the majority of high court cases last year.
PPL, which licenses recorded music on behalf of performers and the major record labels to places such as pubs, clubs and stores, was the single biggest claimant, bringing 106 cases. The Performing Right Society, which collects fees for the writers and publishers of music, ranked third with 27 cases.
After a decade of declining revenues at the hands of pirates, the global music industry is back in growth, although revenue from legal digital services such as Spotify are at a far lower level than the heyday of booming CD sales.
Cullen said: “Legal action can be an effective way for music companies and their representatives to recoup some of the money lost from reduced sales from the digitisation of music content.”
RPC said the music industry remained extremely vigilant against nightclubs, pubs and restaurants that fail to pay for licences to play music, which accounted for 23% of cases brought by the PPL.