UEFA Secures UK High Court Blocking Order on the ISP Level to Prevent Piracy

Written by Bill Toulas
Published on July 20, 2021

UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) has obtained an extension to a UK High Court injunction it held since 2017, which dictated that major ISPs (internet service providers) in the UK should block customers/subscribers who have been confirmed to engage in sports piracy. That would include ISPs that have a respectable number of customers in England and Ireland, like Vodafone, Sky, Virgin Media, and Eircom. The extension will last for two more years, covering the matches that are to be played until the 2022/2023 league season.

The blocking happens on the client IP address and the pirate server, essentially placing an obstacle in the internet communications between the two. As it becomes easily understood, merely using a VPN would be enough to trick this system and override the block, as the client’s IP address would change.

Of course, not everyone is keen to use VPN tools, and we are not promoting the use of software for purposes of copyright infringement and/or the circumvention of blocking measures. What we’re saying is that it’s weird seeing legal mechanisms at work only to produce a result of ambiguous usefulness.

Possibly, this is also why no ISP cared to object to the order, as they all silently accepted to comply. If their customers use VPNs to bypass the blockage, they would have no way to know what sites they visit as the traffic would be encrypted. So, in practice, ISPs can’t do much about the problem considering the technical approach that is taken here.

As for where this leaves the IPTV platforms that offer the sports streams to their users, the matter is complicated. Even if they try to bounce their IP addresses multiple times during a sports event, ISPs continually get updates and reports on the new distribution points from automated systems deployed by rightsholders, so normally, they shouldn’t stay up for more than a couple of minutes. However, some manage to fly under the radar, offering entire football matches without a single interruption.

All in all, if you are looking to enjoy a football match without interruptions, in high definition, and free of the risks that come with visiting shady websites, just pick a legal distribution platform and watch the game. If the cost of that is prohibiting to you, abstaining would send a strong message to those who set the prices. Turning to piracy on the other side sends them the message of “lost revenue” and fuels the vicious circle of blocks and crackdowns.

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