Aug 142015

Is watching UK TV in Spain legal?
A question that has confused expats living in Spain for several years.
And the answer is yes and no.
It all depends which UK TV channels, and how you watch them.

Is watching free to air UK TV channels like BBC ITV in Spain legal?

Firstly, the free to air UK TV channels like BBC ITV C4 and Fives.
It is not illegal to watch these channels via satellite direct from the broadcasters.

The channels are not encrypted, do not require a Sky viewing card, and so can be viewed by anyone in Spain (and the EU) with the correct sized satellite dish.
Under EU Law you can legally watch any free to air transmission direct from the broadcasters from any country in and EU country.

If you live in Spain, you do not even have to pay the UK TV licence, as that only applied for households and premises in the UK. It is not a charge to watch BBC< although money from the licence fee does go to fund the BBC. It is essentially a TAX on any TV reception equipment capable of receiving live TV (although this is soon to be changed to also include delayed TV via the catch up services like BBC Iplayer, ITV Player and All4.) If you receive your free to air UK TV channels from a third party, like an internet TV service such as XBMC / Kodi Android boxes, a cable TV or rebroadcast system, then you yourself are not doing anything illegal. But the internet TV service, a cable TV or rebroadcast system operators are redistributing those channels probably without the permission of the broadcasters, which is required under Spain's, UK, EU and International copyright law. It is certainly illegal to charge clients for free to air channels that you have no permission to retransmit or distribute. Is watching Sky TV subscription channels in Spain legal?

Again the answer to this is again yes and no.

By the manner in which TV programmes are sold to broadcasters around the world, the UK broadcasters will buy the programme rights for the UK and UK only.
This means that, in order to comply with those broadcast rights contracts, Sky subscription cards can only be issued to UK addresses.
Under the terms and conditions of the Sky card contract, those card must not be used outside the UK. If Sky know that viewing card is outside the UK they can and will terminate the contract and your Sky card will be deactivated.

However, under EU law it is NOT illegal to use a viewing card from one EU country in another EU country, in a private domestic property.

But under EU law it is illegal to use a viewing card from one EU country in another EU country, in a public or commercial property, as this will be in breach of copyright laws.

These rules were confirmed in a recently court case which went to the European Court of Justice, and involved a pub landlady and the Premier League, where the pub landylady was allegedly using a viewing card from another EU county to watch Premier League football matches in her pub. The case revolved around what parts of the broadcast were subjected to copyright infringements as a result of the matches being shown in a public place.

Watching PAY tv without the correct subscription to the relevant broadcaster is illegal.
This applies to some internet TV systems , cardsharing, cable TV or rebroadcasting systems.
Not only are you committing fraud and in receipt of stolen goods (by watching pay tv without payment), the providers are also committing fraud.
In a recent test case (in Germany I think), some of the end users (ie clients) were prosecuted for using such systems.

As part of Spain recent antipiracy laws, those found to be selling equipment that allows the reception of Pay TV without the proper subscription to the relevant broadcaster can find them selves with a hefty fine and potential prison sentence. The new legislation also aims to combat unlicensed downloading and streaming of content, increasing fines to €600,000 for websites and internet tv providers and website that breach intellectual property law. This lead to the closure of the Spanish based WYSIWYG website, which provide links to premium sports streams.

However, in a obvious case of “left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing”, The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has confirmed that watching pirated video streams online does not break any copyright laws. The CJEU confirmed that the existing EU copyright provide exemptions for temporary copies for viewing and streaming online. Viewing or streaming, the court says, is different to making a copy and would be exempt from copyright laws, but the copies “must be temporary, that they must be transient or incidental in nature and that they must constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process.”. It’s worth noting that this ruling does not exempt operators of these streaming services from legal responsibility, only the viewers and users of these services.

The easiest and most cost effective way of receiving the main UK TV channels is via a Freesat HD satellite system. A one off payment for installation of the equipment, and you have access to over 150 TV and Radio channels, with 11 TV channels available in Full 1080 HD, ideal for the large screen TVs in use today. –

Contact us for more information on legal subscription free UK TV via satellite.


  One Response to “Is watching UK TV in Spain legal?”

  1. Astra 28 east….thanks to sky for Aaj Tak channel on europe beam……we are waiting for free to air channels Aastha ..Rishtey …Matv on Europe beam too

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