FACT secures record fine for illegal Sky broadcasts

The Federation Against Copyright Theft (‘FACT’) has secured a conviction resulting in pub company Sheldon Inns Ltd being ordered to pay a record £23,907 in fines and costs for showing Sky Sports illegally in the Castle Inn[1]. This latest prosecution demonstrates how pub companies as well as individuals can face criminal records and stiff financial penalties for illegally screening matches.

In this latest case, Sheldon Inns Ltd entered a guilty plea on 29th February at Redditch Magistrates Court for dishonest reception of a television transmission (a Sky televised football match) without a commercial viewing agreement with the intent to avoid payment of the applicable charge, contrary to Section 297 (1) of the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988. The resulting order to pay a total of £23,900 in fines and costs sets a new record following a criminal conviction for illegal Sky use in licenced premises.

A further two pubs were recently prosecuted by FACT for screening Sky Sports without the correct commercial viewing agreement from Sky Business in place. The Brookhouse Inn[2] in Wigan and the Pig and Whistle[3] in Norwich were ordered to pay a combined total of more than £13,000 in fines and costs. There have been thirty-four prosecutions brought by FACT this season alone, bringing total fines and costs paid by licensees across the UK to £149,218.

Stephen Gerrard, Prosecuting Manager, FACT, said: “It was mentioned in court that Sheldon Inns ran twenty seven public houses. This result should act as a warning to other similar sized companies to review their television arrangements.

“Particularly if they are using a supplier other than Sky or BT. This case shows that licensees, employees and associated companies can each face unlimited fines for every offence they commit. On top of this, the court can order legal costs to be paid and there is a requirement to inform the local licensing authority of the criminal offence, which can impact their licenses – it simply isn’t worth the risk.”

These convictions were carried out by FACT on behalf of its members and forms a key part of Sky’s commitment to protecting pubs who invest in legitimate Sky Sports subscriptions. Sky is committed to visiting every licensed premises reported by other publicans and/or organisations for illegally showing Sky and will visit more than 700 pubs each week in towns and cities across the UK this season.

Alison Dolan, Deputy Managing Director, Sky Business, said: “This issue is very close to the hearts of our legitimate Sky pub customers who are being left short-changed by licensees broadcasting Sky content illegally. It creates an uneven playing field for their businesses, which is why we are committed to visiting thousands of pubs this season, as well as investigating suppliers and continuing to support FACT’s work.”

“These latest convictions demonstrate the potential financial cost to businesses who choose to broadcast matches to which Sky has exclusive rights in the UK without the correct commercial viewing agreement from Sky Business”.

Any licensee affected by these issues can report suspected illegal broadcasting in confidence at http://business.sky.com/fighting-fraud

[1] Park Lane, Kidderminster, DY11 6TE

[2] 83 City Road, Wigan WN5 0AZ

[3] All Saints Green, Norwich NR1 3NA

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