Online bookie Bwin is funding a website that links to unauthorised live internet broadcasts of Premier League and other football matches, according to a BBC Radio 4 investigation.
myp2p.eu, which is based in The Netherlands, acts as a hub for online streams uploaded to the net by football fans around the world. While these fans are likely to be breaking copyright law for taking satellite feeds onto their computer and broadcasting them on the net, it's far less clear that the aggregator is doing anything wrong, Akash Sachdeva, a copyright expert at law firm Allen and Overy told Radio 4's You and Yours on Friday.
The site, which has been running three years, last month won a court case brought by the Scandinavian branch of Canal+, lifting an injunction prohibiting it from offering links to streamed coverage of the major European football leagues (English Premiership, La Liga, Serie A etc). myp2p.eu was awarded costs according to online reports (Italian story - translation here) and myp2p.eu itself (coverage of case here).
BBC researchers looked at the site during a match night, finding that odds for matches in play were displayed in ads running on the site. Surfers were invited to respond to these ads by placing a bet with Bwin.
In return, Bwin is paying a referral fee back to the website. Bwin is the official shirt sponsor of European football giants Real Madrid and AC Milan, so its involvement in a site of uncertain legality that is arguably taking money out of the game is questionable.
Bwin spokesman Kevin O'Neal told Radio 4 it has had an affiliate relationship with myp2p.eu since February 2007. He compared the site to a phone book or TV listing, and sidestepped accusations it was funding a website that only existed because of piracy.
"There is no relationship between Bwin and any streamer of content," he said. "Viewers are not breaking any laws and I know for a fact Bwin is not breaking any laws."
He explained that Bwin, having reviewed myp2p.eu and discussed the issue with its lawyers, intended to maintain a commercial relationship with the site as long as it wasn't doing anything ruled to be illegal.
Bwin declined to say how much money it was paying the site, but did say that it typically shares 25-30 per cent of gross gaming revenues with affiliates.
Radio 4's You and Yours programme covering the investigation can be downloaded here.