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Premier League streams row could see Twitch banned in Russia

Russia’s largest internet company is suing Amazon-owned Twitch over hosting of Premier League football streams.

The Rambler Group has exclusive rights to broadcast England’s top flight football and reckons Twitch streamers have illegally screened games 36,000 times since the start of the season.

It’s Rambler’s first season of a three-year exclusive deal for Premier League distribution rights in Russia. As such, it is seeking £2.1 billion in damages and an outright ban of the popular gaming-centric service in Russia.

Twitch is mounting a stout, Virgil Van Dijk like defence against the suit, calling the accusations “unfounded”. It says it is unable to police what its users decide to stream in a manner that can eliminate such violations.

Related: Which Amazon Premier League games are in 4K?

Twitch lawyer Julianna Tabastaeva said the service “only provides users with access to the platform and is unable to change the content posted by users, or track possible violations.”

Meanwhile, she said Twitch had taken “all necessary measures to eliminate the violations, despite not receiving any official notification from Rambler”.

Regardless of Twitch’s protestations, the suit will be heard in Moscow from Friday, unless their settlement talks can be concluded this week.

“Our suit against Twitch is to defend our exclusive rights to broadcast English Premier League matches and we will continue to actively combat pirate broadcasts,” Mikhail Gershkovich, head of Rambler Group’s sports project, told the BBC in a statement.

The Premier League is likely to be backing the legal action, considering how aggressive it has been in hunting down copyright violators on the UK.

In July, ahead of the start of the new football season, police and FACT investigators knocked on the doors of 16 premises across the UK, and served up Cease and Desist notices to “individuals suspected of supplying illegal sports streaming content”. Said individuals were described as “operating at a relatively low level”.

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