The European court ruled in Case C‑279/13 – C More Entertainment AB v. Linus Sandberg. This case concerns the following:
C More Entertainment is a pay-TV station which, inter alia, broadcasts live on its internet site, for payment of a fee, ice hockey matches.
In autumn 2007, C More Entertainment broadcast on that internet site a number of ice hockey matches, to which persons interested could have access by paying the sum of SEK 89 (approximately EUR 9.70) per match.
On his internet site, Mr Sandberg created links enabling the paywall put in place by C More Entertainment to be circumvented. Via those links, internet users could thus access the live broadcasts of two ice hockey matches by C More Entertainment on 20 October and 1 November 2007 for free.
Before the first of those matches, C More Entertainment had contacted Mr Sandberg by telephone and asked him to remove the link without success. After that match, C More Entertainment warned Mr Sandberg in a letter that it regarded the placing of those links as an infringement of the company’s rights.
During the second ice hockey match, C More Entertainment equipped the webcast with a technical protection which prevented any access to that broadcast via the links created by Mr Sandberg.
Mr Sandberg was prosecuted before the Hudiksvalls tingsrätt (District Court, Hudiksvall) for offences against the Law (1960:729) on Copyright in Literary and Artistic Works (lagen (1960:729) om upphovsrätt till litterära och konstnärliga verk (‘upphovsrättslagen’)). On 10 November 2010, the accused was found guilty of an infringement of the copyright of which, in the view of that court, C More Entertainment was the holder and was fined and ordered to pay damages and interest to that company.
Both Mr Sandberg and C More Entertainment appealed against that judgment before the Hovrätten för Nedre Norrland (Court of Appeal of Nedre Norrland).
By a decision of 20 June 2011, that court found that no part of the commentators’, cameramen’s or picture producers’ work on the broadcasts of the ice hockey matches, taken on its own merits or some or all of those parts taken together, reached the level of originality required for copyright protection under the upphovsrättslagen. Next, it held that, as regards the broadcasts at issue in the main proceedings, C More Entertainment was not the holder of a copyright, but of related rights, which had been infringed. Consequently, that court ordered Mr Sandberg to pay fines higher than those imposed at first instance, but slightly reduced the compensation awarded to C More Entertainment.
C More Entertainment brought an appeal against that judgment before the Högsta domstolen (Supreme Court), seeking a declaration that it is the holder of copyright and to have the amount of damages due to it reviewed and increased.
That court took the view that it does not follow from either the wording of Directive 2001/29 or the case-law of the Court that the insertion of a hypertext link on an internet site constitutes an act of communication to the public. In addition, that court noted that the relevant national legislation provides for wider related rights than those set out in Article 3(2) of Directive 2001/29 since, unlike that provision, the protection conferred by Swedish law is not restricted to acts of making works available ‘on demand’. In those circumstances, the Högsta domstolen decided to stay the proceedings and to refer five questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling.
By a letter of 26 March 2014, the Registry of the Court sent to the Högsta domstolen a copy of the judgment in Svensson and Others (C‑466/12, EU:C:2014:76), in which a number of questions concerning whether the placing, on an internet site, of a clickable link may be classified as an act of communication to the public were examined, requesting that court to inform it whether, having regard to that judgment, it wished to maintain its request for a preliminary ruling.
By a decision of 20 October 2014, the Högsta domstolen decided to withdraw the first four questions referred for a preliminary ruling and to maintain only the fifth question, which reads as follows:
‘May the Member States give wider protection to the exclusive right of authors by enabling “communication to the public” to cover a greater range of acts than provided for in Article 3(2) of [Directive 2001/29]?’
The Court’s decision:
Article 3(2) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as not precluding national legislation extending the exclusive right of the broadcasting organisations referred to in Article 3(2)(d) as regards acts of communication to the public which broadcasts of sporting fixtures made live on internet, such as those at issue in the main proceedings, may constitute, provided that such an extension does not undermine the protection of copyright.