Sky Austria Loses Court Bid to Block Free TV Content Access

Sky Oesterreich GmbH lost a challenge at the European Union’s highest court over whether exclusive television content can be accessed free-of-charge by broadcasters.

Such rights “have asset value and do not constitute mere commercial interests or opportunities,” the EU Court of Justice said in a statement today.

Sky Austria, owned by Sky Deutschland AG, challenged a decision forcing it to grant the country’s state-run television broadcaster, ORF, free access to images of matches involving Austrian teams it got under an exclusive contract with European soccer governing body UEFA. Sky argued this requirement, which stems from EU law, as “seriously unfair” and restricting its property right.

“EU law already provided for the right to make short news reports, while limiting the amount of compensation to the additional costs directly incurred in providing access to the signal” when Sky bought the rights, the Luxembourg-based EU court said. “Sky cannot rely on an established legal position enabling it to exercise its exclusive broadcasting rights autonomously.”

Sky said it sought clarification “in the name of all owners of exclusive rights” on whether providing such content for free “constitutes a disproportionate intervention in the basic right of ownership,” according to an e-mailed statement. The decision won’t change the company’s practice since 2010 to cooperate with other stations, it said.

The case is: C-283/11, Sky Oesterreich GmbH v. Oesterreichischer Rundfunk.

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