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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Premier League to net web pirates
Newcastle v Chelsea
The Premier League has cried foul over internet streaming
The FA Premier League is considering action against internet pirates who are streaming live games without paying.

The body has been sending out legal letters in a bid to curb the practice, prompting many sites to shut down.

However, it is now considering whether to sue an offender to "make an example of them by setting a precedent".

Web pirates pick up overseas broadcasts of live games and play the footage over the internet, which the league claims is putting TV rights deals in jeopardy.

We were seeing people infringing our rights with streaming - we're now considering taking one of those sites to court to make an example of them
Dan Johnson, Premier League spokesman

"It's something we became aware of six months ago," spokesman Dan Johnson said.

"I think its a relatively recent phenomenon and the technological access to broadband has enabled it (streaming) to be done.

"Basically we were seeing people infringing our rights with streaming. We're now considering taking one of those sites to court to make an example of them - and to set a precedent."

Big money

Currently the league is paid close to 1.5bn in various broadcasting rights deals.

Sky pays 1.02bn, the BBC 105m, and a further 320m deal covers rights in 195 foreign countries.

However, Mr Johnson said the action was not simply a matter of money.

"It's not a matter of the cost, it is a point of law and principle - we're duty bound to protect those rights," he told BBC News.

In the UK, broadcasters are barred from showing live matches on Saturday afternoons, instead they show games later or air the highlights.

When the deals were first brokered, clubs did not want matches shown live as they feared fans would prefer to stay at home rather than come to stadiums - a move that would eat into their gate receipts.

Blackout breached

But, some websites have now found a way around the blackout.

A person in a country showing the live match streams the content through a link to a server, which UK fans can then link to and watch the game, for a small fee.

At the moment, the FA Premier League does not have any internet live rights - although it does offer delayed streaming on the internet and on 3G mobile phones.

Currently the number of people watching streamed live matches is relatively small, according to The Times newspaper, at least 50,000 people log on to games on a Saturday.

But the league wants to take action to protect its copyright now before the practice becomes a widespread problem.

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