In a blow to companies that retransmit free-to-air television programming over the internet, Europe's highest court ruled yesterday that original broadcasters had the right to prohibit any redistribution of their content.
It was ruling in a case involving UK-based TVCatchup Ltd, a provider of "live" streaming of free-to-air television shows, including those by three of the UK's largest terrestrial broadcasters - the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 - and Sky.
TVCatchup is accessible only to subscribers holding a valid British TV license in the UK, who could watch the same programmes free on their TVs.
The European Court of Justice, said that under a 2001 EU law, original broadcasters were held to be "authors" with an exclusive right to authorise or prohibit any communication of their work to the public.
The ruling would come as a boost to ITV, which brought up the case, and to other broadcasters whose potential audience was effectively being rerouted to a revenue-generating website through TVCatchup's commercials being streamed before its programming.
"EU law seeks to establish a high level of protection for authors of works, allowing them to obtain an appropriate reward for the use of those works," the court said in a statement.