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Mayo man wins landmark TV rights case

Mayo man wins landmark TV rights case

Edwin McGreal

A well-known Mayo native has won a landmark case this week over the screening of Irish GAA, soccer and rugby games in America.
Eugene Rooney from Kiltimagh, a former Mayo footballer, won a case by proving he was not pirating a game he screened in his New York pub from a satellite signal. It could open the door for Irish bars worldwide to screen sporting events for virtually no cost.
Rooney, who owns the Old Castle Pub in Manhattan, was taken to court by Premium Sports, formerly Setanta Sports, which has had a monopoly on showing GAA and other sporting events in bars throughout the USA.
They argued that a game Rooney broadcast in February, 2010, between Scotland and Wales in soccer, was screened live without their signal and that this was against the law as they are the only agents who can provide such live games in the USA.
However Rooney successfully argued that the game was not live but was rather a minutely delayed signal from a Slingbox device from a home in Dublin.
A Slingbox allows programmes shown in one country to be shown in another by streaming the data. There is usually a minute or so delay.
The decision appears to allow Irish bars worldwide to show Irish games via Slingbox. Premium Sports, formerly Setanta Sports, previously had a monopoly.
In effect, Judge Katherine Forrest stated it was a rebroadcast, not an interception of a live signal and that the initial live signal had been legally acquired in Dublin.
An expert called by the Rooney side had testified that there was at least a one or two minute delay from the time the signal was received legally in Dublin and then sent via Slingbox to America. Therefore, they stated that no unlawful scrambling of the signal had taken place.
Eugene Rooney, a brother of former Presidential candidate Mary Davis, was extremely pleased with the result.
“It takes so much time and money to stand up to these people and most pubs will just cave into Premium’s demands to avoid the hassle. I knew we were in the right and I was not going to back down. I couldn’t be happier.”
Having gotten all of Premium’s claims against it dismissed, Old Castle now intends to pursue its own claims against Premium for Breach of Contract.
However, Shane O’Rourke CEO of Premium Sports, the California-based company formerly part of Setanta Sports has said that the company is ready for a major fight-back.
“We respectfully disagree with the judge on this decision and we are appealing. We will continue to monitor bars who steal the events we show, be it a residential broadband feed, illegal IP or Slingbox. We will continue to sue those that steal our events. But for the most part we talk to them first before we reach that stage,” he told Irish Central.

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