Playing by different rules

The Maltese say yes to illegal sports streaming but no to fake equipment.

Interesting trends have emerged about our habits related to illegalities in the sports world. Recent studies were, in fact, conducted by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), which is a decentralised agency of the EU responsible for managing the registration of EU trademarks and designs.

Illegal streaming in Malta

EUIPO found that Maltese citizens, particularly youngsters, frequently use illegal sources to stream sports. About 13% of Maltese people accessed or streamed sports content illegally, with a higher rate among those aged 15-24, at 28%. This trend mirrors a broader issue across the EU, where 12% of citizens engaged in illegal streaming and over a quarter of young people aged 15-24 did the same.

Low demand for counterfeit sports goods in Malta

Contrary to their streaming habits, Maltese citizens are among the least likely in the EU to purchase fake sports equipment. Only 4% of Maltese youths knowingly bought counterfeit sports goods online, reflecting a lower engagement compared to the EU average. Across the EU, counterfeit sports equipment costs manufacturers €850 million annually, representing 11% of lost sales.

EU-wide impact and counterfeit seizures

Police across Europe seized 8 million counterfeit luxury and sporting goods worth €120 million. The EUIPO’s ‘Play Fair’ campaign aims to combat illegal streaming and counterfeit purchases, urging fans to watch official broadcasts and buy authorised merchandise.

EUIPO’s call for fair play

Europe is gearing up for major sporting events like UEFA EURO 2024 and the Paris Olympic Games. However, millions may watch these events illegally. João Negrão, Executive Director of the EUIPO, emphasised the importance of respecting IP rights to support athletes and ensure the continued success of sports events.

Economic and health risks of counterfeiting

Counterfeit sports equipment leads to substantial economic losses and poses health risks. Fake goods often fail to meet European safety standards, potentially endangering consumers. The EUIPO and OECD study on dangerous goods highlighted that counterfeit items could contain hazardous materials.

Fighting live-event piracy and counterfeiting

Live-event piracy involves sophisticated methods to distribute unauthorised content online. The EU and its member states are combatting this issue through regulations, technology, and awareness campaigns. The European Commission’s recommendations aim to block illicit online services and increase enforcement against counterfeiting.

Operation Fake Star and EUIPO’s role

Operation Fake Star, targeting counterfeit goods, led to the seizure of 8 million counterfeit items in 2023, including sportswear and footwear. The operation, coordinated by Europol and led by Spain and Greece, resulted in 264 arrests and uncovered other serious crimes like organized crime and money laundering.

Established in 1994 and based in Alicante, Spain, the EUIPO handles the protection of intellectual property rights, including trademarks, designs, and geographical indications, across all 27 EU member states. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2024, the EUIPO continues to play a vital role in protecting intellectual property across the EU.

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