Bars challenge Cable TV's exclusive rights to World Cup

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 July, 2007, 12:00am


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The owners of several bars in Wan Chai accused of breaching Cable TV's exclusive rights to broadcast last year's World Cup soccer tournament have questioned the broadcaster's right to claim damages from them.

In a hearing before deputy High Court judge Anthony To Kwai-fung yesterday, Sara Tong, counsel for the defendants, accused the broadcaster and Fifa, soccer's world governing body, of failing to produce sufficient documentation to prove that the exclusive rights her clients were alleged to have violated even existed.

The bars, including Carnegies, Devil's Advocate and Coyote Bar & Grill, showed live games from the tournament held in Germany in July last year. Earlier reports said Cable TV intended taking action against five bars for allegedly using illegal satellite feeds from South Africa, rather than from Cable TV.

Ms Tong said it was up to the parties making the accusation to 'show and state how it is they have the rights they say they do'.

In particular, the bars were seeking detailed information about a 'chain of licences' that it is alleged saw the rights vested in Cable TV after they were purchased from Fifa by a Swiss firm and sold on to Cable TV.

'Regardless of whether we have a defence, the plaintiffs must first prove their position of ownership,' Ms Tong said. '[They] have all along, since the beginning of this action, been evasive. They have been using all means to avoid revealing details of the very rights that form the basis of their claim.'

Ms Tong requested that the Court of First Instance order Cable TV and Fifa to offer up more detailed information regarding the licence or risk having the case struck out.

In return, Cable TV argued that it was well established that broadcast rights for a particular territory could be bought and sold. By choosing to use so-called 'overspill signals' from satellite broadcasters in other countries, the bars were violating the copyright of the broadcaster that had the rights for Hong Kong.

They had been warned several times that what they were doing was illegal and would attract legal action if it continued into the World Cup.

The case is scheduled for a substantive hearing next month.