British broadcaster ITV has won a court battle with streaming service TVCatchup.com, which has been retransmitting its broadcasts without permission. The case comes as ITV prepares for a fight over retransmission fees this summer with British cable operator Virgin Media.
TVCatchup.com had been offering ITV channels, as well as those of the U.K.’s Channel 4 and Channel 5, for free online. ITV, backed by the other two networks, challenged this at the European Court of Justice.
The court said TVCatchup.com was not exempt from European Union copyright rules that allow free retransmission of public service channels via cable.
An ITV spokesperson said: “We are delighted that the European Court has ruled that our channels should not be retransmitted online or on cable without our authorization.
“This finding recognizes the vital importance of intellectual property protection in maximizing investment in original U.K. TV content and preventing free-riding.”
ITV is also hoping to extract fees from Virgin Media for retransmitting its flagship channel, ITV 1, which airs shows like “Broadchurch,” starring David Tennant. Although the cable operator is exempt at present under U.K. copyright law, that exemption is set to be withdrawn once the British Parliament passes the Digital Economy Bill. The situation is complicated by the fact that Liberty Global, Virgin Media’s owner, holds a 9.9% stake in ITV.
“The government has already confirmed that the current U.K. law on retransmission is no longer relevant,” ITV’s spokesman said. “We’ve long argued that the carriage of ITV’s main channel on cable and satellite platforms should be subject to the same commercial negotiations as our non-public service channels.”
A Virgin Media spokesman said: “Culture secretary Karen Bradley and digital minister Matthew Hancock have repeatedly told Parliament they do not want the public service television companies to force Virgin Media to charge free-to-air television viewers to watch ITV.
“Virgin Media has confidence the government will ensure public service free channels continue to be free.”