Access to personal data in case of copyright infringements in the EU

The Advocate General of the European Court M. SZPUNAR has issue an opinion in the case C‑470/21 La Quadrature du Net, Fédération des fournisseurs d’accès à Internet associatifs, Franciliens.net, French Data Network v Premier ministre, Ministère de la Culture.

The dispute concerns the scope of access to personal data in case of copyright infringements on the internet. The case has the following background:

By application of 12 August 2019 and two supplementary submissions of 12 November 2019 and 6 May 2021, La Quadrature du Net, the Fédération des fournisseurs d’accès à Internet associatifs, Franciliens.net and French Data Network brought an action before the Council of State for annulment of the implied decision by which the Prime Minister, France rejected their application for the repeal of the Decree of 5 March 2010, even though, in their view, that decree and the provisions constituting its legal basis unreasonably interfere with the rights guaranteed by the French Constitution and, in addition, infringe Article 15 of Directive 2002/58 and Articles 7, 8, 11, and 52 of the Charter.

In particular, the applicants in the main proceedings argue that the Decree of 5 March 2010 and the provisions constituting its legal basis permit access to connection data in a manner which is disproportionate to minor copyright infringements committed online, without prior review by a court or an authority offering guarantees of independence and impartiality.

In that regard, the referring court states, first of all, that the Court, in its most recent judgment in La Quadrature du Net and Others, held that Article 15(1) of Directive 2002/58, read in the light of Articles 7, 8 and 11 and Article 52(1) of the Charter, does not preclude legislative measures which, for the purposes of safeguarding national security, combating crime and safeguarding public security, provide for the general and indiscriminate retention of data relating to the civil identity of users of electronic communications systems. Thus, such retention is permissible, without any specific time limit being imposed, for the purposes of investigating, detecting and prosecuting criminal offences in general.

The referring court infers from this that the plea raised by the applicants in the main proceedings, alleging that the Decree of 5 March 2010 is unlawful because it was adopted in the context of action to combat minor offences, must therefore be dismissed.

Next, the referring court observes that the Court, in its judgment in Tele2 Sverige and Watson, held that Article 15(1) of Directive 2002/58, read in the light of Articles 7, 8 and 11 and Article 52(1) of the Charter, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation governing the protection and security of traffic and location data, and more particularly, the access of the competent national authorities to retained data, where that access is not subject to a prior review by a court or an independent administrative authority.

It states that the Court, in its judgment in Tele2, made clear that, in order to ensure, in practice, that those conditions are fully respected, it is essential that access of the competent national authorities to retained data should, as a general rule, except in cases of validly established urgency, be subject to the requirement of a prior review carried out either by a court or by an independent administrative body, and that the decision of that court or body should be made following a reasoned request by those authorities submitted, inter alia, within the framework of procedures for the prevention, detection or prosecution of crime.

The referring court points out that the Court recalled that requirement in its judgment in La Quadrature du Net and Others, concerning the real-time collection of connection data by the intelligence services, and in its judgment in Prokuratuur (Conditions of access to data relating to electronic communications), concerning national authorities’ access to connection data.

Finally, the referring court notes that, since its establishment in 2009, Hadopi has issued over 12.7 million recommendations to subscribers under the graduated response procedure provided for in Article L 331-25 of the CPI, of which 827 791 were issued in 2019 alone. To that end, the officials of Hadopi’s Committee for the protection of rights must be able to collect, each year, a considerable volume of data relating to the civil identity of the users concerned. The referring court considers that, given the volume of those recommendations, making such data collection subject to a prior review might make it impossible for recommendations to be issued at all.

In those circumstances, the Conseil d’État (Council of State) decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1)  Are the civil identity data corresponding to an IP address included among the traffic and location data to which, in principle, the requirement [of] prior review by a court or an independent administrative entity [whose decisions are binding] applies?

(2) If the first question is answered in the affirmative, and having regard to the fact that the data relating to the civil identity of users, including their contact details, are not particularly sensitive data, is Directive [2002/58], read in the light of the [Charter], to be interpreted as precluding national legislation which provides for the collection of those data, corresponding to the IP addresses of users, by an administrative authority, without prior review by a court or an independent administrative entity [whose decisions are binding]?

(3)  If the second question is answered in the affirmative, and having regard to the fact that the data relating to civil identity are not particularly sensitive data, that only those data may be collected and they may be collected solely for the purposes of preventing failures to fulfil obligations which have been defined precisely, exhaustively and restrictively by national law, and that the systematic review of access to the data of each user by a court or a third-party administrative entity [whose decisions are binding] would be liable to jeopardise the fulfilment of the public service [mission] entrusted to the administrative authority which collects those data, which is itself independent, does [Directive 2002/58] preclude the review from being performed in an adapted fashion, for example as an automated review, as the case may be under the supervision of a department within the body which offers guarantees of independence and impartiality in relation to the officials who have the task of collecting the data?’

The Advocate’s opinion:

Article 15(1) of Directive 2002/58/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 July 2002 concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (Directive on privacy and electronic communications), read in the light of Articles 7, 8, 11 and Article 52(1) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,

must be interpreted as not precluding national legislation which allows providers of electronic communications services to retain, and an administrative authority, responsible for protecting copyright and related rights against infringements of those rights committed on the internet, to access data which is limited to civil identity data corresponding to IP addresses, so that that authority can identify the holders of those addresses suspected of having committed those infringements and, if appropriate, take action against them, where that access is not subject to a prior review by a court or an independent administrative body, provided that those data are the only means of investigation enabling the person to whom that address was assigned at the time of the commission of the infringement to be identified.

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The right to be forgotten – Advocate General’s opinion in a lawsuit against Google

The Advocate General of the European Court G. PITRUZZELLA has issued an opinion in the case C‑460/20 TU,RE v Google LLC. This case has the following background:

TU works in a position of responsibility or is involved, in various companies which provide financial services. RE was TU’s cohabiting partner and, until May 2015, held general commercial power of representation in one of those companies. On 27 April 2015, 4 June 2015 and 16 June 2015, the website http://www.g … net (‘the g-net website’) published three articles which expressed critical opinions and doubts as to the reliability of the investment model of several of those companies. The article dated 4 June 2015 also featured four photographs – three of TU and one of RE – in which the applicants were shown driving luxury cars, in a helicopter and in front of a charter plane. Together with the articles, those images suggested that the applicants were enjoying a life of externally financed luxury. The operator of the g-net website is G-LLC, according to the imprint. The corporate purpose of G-LLC is, according to its own statement, ‘to contribute consistently towards fraud prevention in the economy and society by means of active investigation and constant transparency’. However, various publications have criticised the business model of G-LLC, accusing that company, among other things, of attempting to blackmail companies by initially publishing negative reports and then offering to delete the reports in return for so-called protection money. The articles dated 4 June 2015 and 16 June 2015 were displayed in the list of search results produced when the applicants’ first names and surnames were entered in the search engine operated by Google, both on their own and in conjunction with particular company names, and the article of 27 April 2015 was displayed when particular company names were entered in its search engine. These results contained a link to the articles in question. Google also displayed the photographs of the applicants contained in the article dated 4 June 2015 as thumbnails in the overview of results of its image search.

The applicants requested the defendant, on the one hand, to de-reference the articles in question, which, in their view, contain a number of incorrect allegations and defamatory opinions based on false statements, and, on the other, to remove the thumbnails from the list of search results. They claimed to have been victims of blackmail by G-LLC. The defendant refused to comply with that request, referring to the professional context in which the articles and images at issue are set and invoking its ignorance as to the allegedly false nature of the information contained therein. The action was dismissed at first and second instance.

It is in that context that the Federal Court of Justice decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1) Is it compatible with the data subject’s right to respect for private life (Article 7 of the Charter …) and to protection of personal data (Article 8 of the Charter), if, within the context of the weighing-up of conflicting rights and interests arising from Articles 7, 8, 11 and 16 of the Charter, within the scope of the examination of his or her request for de-referencing brought against the data controller of an internet search engine, pursuant to Article 17(3)(a) of [the GDPR], when the link, the de-referencing of which the applicant seeks, leads to content that includes factual claims and value judgements based on factual claims the truth of which is denied by the data subject, and the lawfulness of which depends on the question of the extent to which the factual claims contained in that content are true, the national court also concentrates conclusively on the issue of whether the data subject could reasonably seek legal protection against the content provider, for instance by means of interim relief, and thus at least provisional clarification on the question of the truth of the content displayed by the search engine data controller could be provided?

(2) In the case of a request for de-referencing made against the data controller of an internet search engine, which in a name search searches for photos of natural persons which third parties have introduced into the internet in connection with the person’s name, and which displays the photos which it has found in its list of search results as preview images (thumbnails), within the context of the weighing-up of the conflicting rights and interests arising from Articles 7, 8, 11 and 16 of the Charter pursuant to Article 12(b) and Article 14, first paragraph, point (a) of Directive [95/46] and Article 17(3)(a) of the GDPR, should the context of the original third-party publication be conclusively taken into account, even if the third-party website is linked by the search engine when the preview image is displayed but is not specifically named, and the resulting context is not shown with it by the internet search engine?’

The Advocate’s opinion:

Article 17(3) of Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, and repealing Directive 95/46/EC (General Data Protection Regulation) should be interpreted as meaning that, within the context of the weighing-up of conflicting fundamental rights arising from Articles 7, 8, 11 and 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights fo the European Union, which is to be undertaken within the scope of the examination of a request for de-referencing made to the operator of a search engine on the basis of the alleged false nature of the information which appears in the referenced content, it is not possible to concentrate conclusively on the issue of whether the data subject could reasonably seek legal protection against the content provider, for instance by means of interim relief. In the context of such a request, it is incumbent on the data subject to provide prima facie evidence of the false nature of the content the de-referencing of which is sought, where that is not manifestly impossible or excessively difficult, in particular with regard to the nature of the information concerned. It is for the operator of the search engine to carry out the checks which fall within its specific capacities, contacting, where possible, the publisher of the referenced web page. Where the circumstances of the case so indicate in order to avoid irreparable harm to the data subject, the operator of the search engine will be able temporarily to suspend referencing, or to indicate, in the search results, that the truth of some of the information in the content to which the link in question relates is contested.

Article 12(b) and Article 14, first paragraph, point (a) of Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data and Article 17(3)(a) of Regulation 2016/679 should be interpreted as meaning that, within the context of the weighing-up of conflicting rights and interests arising from Articles 7, 8, 11 and 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in connection with a request for de-referencing made to the operator of a search engine seeking to obtain the removal, from the results of an image search carried out on the basis of a natural person’s name, of photographs displayed in the form of thumbnails depicting that person, account should not be taken of the context of the publication on the internet in which those thumbnails originally appear.

Whether downloadable software is goods or not?

The European Court has ruled in an important case C‑410/19 The Software Incubator Ltd v Computer Associates (UK) Ltd, which targets the issue of whether downloadable software under a perpetual licence is goods or not. The case has the following background:

Computer Associates is a company that markets application service automation software for deploying and managing applications across a data centre (‘the software at issue’). The purpose of that software is to coordinate and implement automatically the deployment of and updates for other applications across the different operational environments in large organisations such as banks and insurance companies, so that the underlying applications are fully integrated with the software operating environment.

Computer Associates granted its customers, by electronic means, licences to use the software at issue in a specified territory for an authorised number of end users.

The grant of the licence for that software was contingent upon compliance with obligations under which the customer was not authorised, in particular, to access any unauthorised portion of the software, to de-compile or modify it, or to rent, assign or transfer it or to grant a sub-license.

It is apparent from the information provided by the referring court that the licence to use the software at issue could be granted either indefinitely or for a limited period of time. In the event of termination of the agreement for material breach attributable to the other party or on account of the latter’s insolvency, that software was to be returned to Computer Associates, deleted or destroyed by the customer. In practice, most licences were, however, granted indefinitely. Computer Associates retained, in that regard, all rights, in particular copyright, title, patent, trademark right and all other proprietary interests in and to the software at issue.

On 25 March 2013, Computer Associates entered into an agreement with The Software Incubator. Under Clause 2.1 of that agreement, the latter company acted on behalf of Computer Associates to approach potential customers within the United Kingdom and Ireland for the purpose of ‘promoting, marketing and selling the [software at issue]’. Under the agreement, The Software Incubator’s obligations were limited to the promotion and marketing of that software. The Software Incubator did not have any authority to transfer property in the software.

By letter dated 9 October 2013, Computer Associates terminated the agreement with The Software Incubator.

The Software Incubator brought an action for damages, on the basis of the provisions of national law implementing Directive 86/653, against Computer Associates before the High Court of Justice (England & Wales), Queen’s Bench Division (United Kingdom). Computer Associates disputed the classification of its relationship with The Software Incubator as a commercial agency contract, contending that the supply of computer software to a customer by electronic means accompanied by the grant of a perpetual licence to use that software did not constitute a ‘sale of goods’ within the meaning of Article 1(2) of that directive.

By decision of 1 July 2016, the High Court of Justice (England & Wales), Queen’s Bench Division, granted The Software Incubator’s application and ordered that that company be awarded 475 000 pounds sterling (GBP) (approximately EUR 531 000) by way of compensation. That court took the view, in that context, that the ‘sale of goods’ within the meaning of Statutory Instruments 1993/3053 referred to an autonomous definition which had to include the supply of software.

Computer Associates lodged an appeal against that judgment before the Court of Appeal (England & Wales) (Civil Division) (United Kingdom). By decision of 19 March 2018, that court held that software supplied to a customer electronically does not constitute ‘goods’ within the meaning of Article 1(2) of Directive 86/653, as interpreted by the Court of Justice. It concluded that The Software Incubator was not a ‘commercial agent’ within the meaning of that provision and dismissed its claim for compensation.

The Software Incubator challenged that decision before the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.

That court seeks from the Court of Justice an interpretation of Article 1(2) of Directive 86/653 which it needs in order to determine whether the concept of ‘commercial agent’ having authority to negotiate the ‘sale of goods’ applies in the case of a supply of computer software by electronic means to the customer, the use of that software being governed by a licence granted indefinitely.

In those circumstances, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1)  Where a copy of computer software is supplied to a principal’s customers electronically, and not on any tangible medium, does it constitute “goods” within the meaning of that term as it appears in the definition of a commercial agent in Article 1(2) of Council Directive 86/653/EEC of December 1986 on the co-ordination of the laws of Member States relating to self-employed commercial agents (“Directive”)?

(2)  Where computer software is supplied to a principal’s customers by way of the grant to the customer of a perpetual licence to use a copy of the computer software, does that constitute a “sale of goods” within the meaning of that term as it appears in the definition of commercial agent in Article 1(2) of the Directive?’

The Court’s decision:

The concept of ‘sale of goods’ referred to in Article 1(2) of Council Directive 86/653/EEC of 18 December 1986 on the coordination of the laws of the Member States relating to self-employed commercial agents must be interpreted as meaning that it can cover the supply, in return for payment of a fee, of computer software to a customer by electronic means where that supply is accompanied by the grant of a perpetual licence to use that software.

Whether decompiling software code is illegal?

The European Court has ruled in case  C‑13/20 Top System SA v Белгия which focuses our attention on the question to what extent decompiling software code can be legal.

Top System is a company governed by Belgian law that develops computer programs and provides IT services.

SELOR is the public body, which is responsible in Belgium, for selecting and orienting the future personnel of the authorities’ various public services. Following SELOR’s integration into the service public fPolicy and Support Federal Public Service, the Belgian State replaced that body as the defendant in the main proceedings.

Since 1990, Top System has collaborated with SELOR, on whose behalf it provides IT development and maintenance services.

In order to fulfil its tasks, SELOR has gradually put in place IT tools to enable applications to be submitted and processed online.

At the request of SELOR, Top System developed several applications which contain (i) functionalities originating from its framework software called ‘Top System Framework’ (‘the TSF’) and (ii) functionalities designed to meet SELOR’s specific needs.

SELOR has a user license for the applications developed by Top System.

On 6 February 2008, SELOR and Top System concluded an agreement for the installation and configuration of a new development environment as well as the integration of the sources of SELOR’s applications into, and their migration to, that new environment.

Between June and October 2008, there was an exchange of emails between SELOR and Top System about operating problems affecting certain applications using the TSF.

Having failed to reach agreement with SELOR on the resolution of those problems, on 6 July 2009, Top System brought an action against SELOR and the Belgian State before the Commercial Court, Brussels, Belgium seeking, inter alia, a declaration that SELOR had decompiled the TSF, in breach of Top System’s exclusive rights in that software. Top System also claimed that SELOR and the Belgian State should be ordered to pay it damages for the decompilation of and copying of the source codes from that software, together with compensatory interest, from the estimated date of that decompilation, that is to say, from 18 December 2008 at the latest.

On 26 November 2009, the case was referred to the Court of First Instance, Brussels, Belgium which, by judgment of 19 March 2013, in essence, dismissed Top System’s application.

Top System brought an appeal against that judgment before the referring court, the Court of Appeal, Brussels, Belgium.

Before that court, Top System submits that SELOR unlawfully decompiled the TSF. According to the applicant, under Articles 6 and 7 of the LPO, decompilation can be carried out only with the authorisation of the author, the successor in title of that author, or for interoperability purposes. On the other hand, decompilation is not permitted for the purpose of correcting errors affecting the functioning of the program concerned.

SELOR acknowledges that it decompiled part of the TSF in order to disable a defective function. However, it submits, inter alia, that, under Article 6(1) of the LPO, it was entitled to carry out that decompilation in order to correct certain design errors affecting the TSF, which made it impossible to use that software in accordance with its intended purpose. SELOR also relies on its right, under Article 6(3) of the LPO, to observe, study or test the functioning of the program concerned in order to ascertain the underlying ideas and principles of the relevant TSF functionalities in order to be able to prevent the blockages caused by those errors.

The referring court takes the view that, in order to determine whether SELOR was entitled to carry out that decompilation on the basis of Article 6(1) of the LPO, it is for that court to ascertain whether the decompilation of all or part of a computer program comes within the acts referred to in Article 5(a) and (b) of the LPO.

In those circumstances, the Court of Appeal, Brussels decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1) Is Article 5(1) of [Directive 91/250] to be interpreted as permitting the lawful purchaser of a computer program to decompile all or part of that program where such decompilation is necessary to enable that person to correct errors affecting the operation of the program, including where the correction consists in disabling a function that is affecting the proper operation of the application of which the program forms a part?

(2) In the event that that question is answered in the affirmative, must the conditions referred to in Article 6 of the directive, or any other conditions, also be satisfied?’

The Court decision is:

1. Article 5(1) of Council Directive 91/250/EEC of 14 May 1991 on the legal protection of computer programs must be interpreted as meaning that the lawful purchaser of a computer program is entitled to decompile all or part of that program in order to correct errors affecting its operation, including where the correction consists in disabling a function that is affecting the proper operation of the application of which that program forms a part.

2.  Article 5(1) of Directive 91/250 must be interpreted as meaning that the lawful purchaser of a computer program who wishes to decompile that program in order to correct errors affecting the operation thereof is not required to satisfy the requirements laid down in Article 6 of that directive. However, that purchaser is entitled to carry out such a decompilation only to the extent necessary to effect that correction and in compliance, where appropriate, with the conditions laid down in the contract with the holder of the copyright in that program.

Private copying levies, copyrights, clouds and Advocate General’s opinion

The Advocate Genaral of the European Court G.Hogan has issued his opinion on the case C‑433/20 Austro-Mechana Gesellschaft zur Wahrnehmung mechanisch-musikalischer Urheberrechte Gesellschaft mbH v Strato AG.

In a nutshell the case concerns the question whether private copying in a cloud environment requires separate copying levy. The dispute has the following background:

Austro-Mechana is a copyright collecting society which protects, in a fiduciary capacity, the rights of use and the rights to remuneration in respect of works of music (with and without lyrics) in its own name but in the interest of and on behalf of the beneficiaries of those rights. The interests protected by collecting societies such as Austro-Mechana include, in particular, the statutory rights to remuneration provided for in Paragraph 42b(1) of the UrhG, that is, the right to remuneration in respect of the exploitation of the right of reproduction on storage media.

Austro-Mechana brought an action before the Commercial Court, Vienna, Austria against Strato, a company established in Germany, which provides a service under the name ‘HiDrive’. The service in question is described by its supplier as a ‘virtual cloud storage solution which is as quick and simple to use as an (external) hard disk’. Strato claims that its storage solution ‘offers enough space to store photos, music and films in one central location’.

Austro-Mechana sought an order allowing it to invoice for, and subsequently take payment in settlement of, the remuneration owed by Strato under Paragraph 42b(1) of the UrhG for exploitation of the right of reproduction on storage media. It contends that given that the form of words used in Paragraph 42b(1) of the UrhG is itself deliberately framed in general terms, remuneration for exploitation of the right of reproduction on storage media is payable even in the case where storage media of any kind are, in the course of a commercial activity, ‘placed on the market’ – by whatever means and in whatever form – within national territory, including in situations involving the provision of cloud-based storage space. It says that the descriptive words ‘place on the market’ do not refer to physical distribution but deliberately leave scope for the inclusion of all processes that have the effect of making storage space available to users in national territory for the purposes of reproduction for (personal or) private use. In addition, Paragraph 42b(3) of the UrhG makes it clear that it is immaterial whether the storage media placed on the market originate in national territory or in other countries.

Strato contested the application. It claimed that the applicable version of the UrhG does not provide for remuneration for cloud services and that the legislature, being cognisant of the technical possibilities available, made a deliberate choice not to take up that option. According to Strato, cloud services and physical storage media are not comparable. An interpretation that includes cloud services is not possible as storage media is not placed on the market; storage space is simply made available. Strato claimed that it does not sell or lease physical storage media to Austria but merely offers online storage space on its servers hosted in Germany. Strato also stated that it has already indirectly paid the copyright fee for its servers in Germany (as a component of the price charged by the manufacturer/importer). In addition, Austrian users had already paid a copyright fee for the devices without which content cannot even be uploaded to the cloud in the first place. The imposition of an additional charge by way of remuneration for exploitation of the right of reproduction on storage media, for cloud storage, would, according to Strato, have the effect of doubling or even tripling the obligation to pay a fee.

The Commercial Court, Vienna dismissed the action. It held essentially, that holders of copyright and related rights (‘rightholders’) are entitled to equitable remuneration in the case where storage media (from a location in national territory or another country) are, in the course of a commercial activity, placed on the market in the national territory, if an object requiring protection is by its nature likely to be reproduced for personal or private use by being recorded on a storage medium (in a manner permitted in accordance with Paragraph 42(2) to (7) of the UrhG), that is to say, in relation to storage media of any kind that are suitable for making such reproductions.

The Commercial Court, Vienna stated that Paragraph 42b(1) of the UrhG, which expressly refers to ‘storage media of any kind’, includes – internal and external – computer hard disks. It also stated that cloud services exist in the most diverse forms. The core of any such service is the assurance that the user has a certain storage capacity, but this does not include the right for the user to have his or her content stored on a particular server or on particular servers, his or her entitlement being limited to being able to access his or her storage capacity ‘somewhere in the [supplier’s] cloud’. According to that court, Strato does not therefore provide its customers with storage media but makes storage capacity available – as a service – online. It noted that in the course of the procedure for peer review of the draft of the Urh-Nov, (8) an express call was made for account to be taken of cloud storage and proposed forms of words were put forward for that purpose. However, the legislature deliberately chose not to include such a provision.

Austro-Mechana appealed against that judgment before the referring court. The referring court considers that the question whether Article 5(2)(b) of Directive 2001/29 covers the storage of copyright-protected content in the cloud is not entirely clear. In that regard, the referring court notes that in the judgment of 29 November 2017, VCAST (C‑265/16, EU:C:2017:913; ‘the VCAST judgment), the Court stated that the storage of protected content in a cloud is to be treated as an exploitation of rights in which the author alone may engage.

In the light of the above considerations, the Higher Regional Court, Vienna decided to stay the proceedings and refer the following questions to the Court for a preliminary ruling:

‘(1) Is the expression “on any medium” in Article 5(2)(b) of Directive [2001/29] to be interpreted as meaning that it also includes servers owned by third parties which make available to natural persons (customers) for private use (and for ends that are neither directly nor indirectly commercial) storage space on … those servers which those customers use for reproduction by storage (“cloud computing”)?

(2) If so: is the provision cited in Question 1 to be interpreted as meaning that it is applicable to national legislation under which the author is entitled to equitable remuneration (remuneration for exploitation of the right of reproduction on storage media), in the case:

–  where a work (which has been broadcast, made available to the public or recorded on a storage medium produced for commercial purposes) is by its nature likely to be reproduced for personal or private use by being stored “on a storage medium of any kind which is suitable for such reproduction and, in the course of a commercial activity, is placed on the market in national territory”,

–  and where the storage method used in that context is that described in Question 1?’

The Advocate’s opinion:

The terms ‘reproductions on any medium’ in Article 5(2)(b) 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 includes reproduction based on cloud computing services provided by a third party.

A separate levy or fee is not payable in respect of the reproduction by a natural person for their own personal purposes based on cloud computing services provided by a third party provided that the levies paid in respect of devices/media in the Member State in question also reflects the harm caused to the rightholder by such reproduction. If a Member State has, in fact, elected to provide for a levy system in respect of devices/media, the referring court is in principle entitled to assume that this in itself constitutes ‘fair compensation’ in the sense of Article 5(2)(b) of Directive 2001/29, unless the rightholder (or their representative) can clearly demonstrate that such payment would in the circumstances of the case at hand be inadequate.

One photographer, one video and copyright problems regarding embedded content from Instagram

The well-known photographer Paul Nicklen won a copyright lawsuit in the US.

The case at hand concerns a dramatic video clip of starving polar bears created by the photographer and uploaded on Facebook and Instagram in 2017.

Without any permission from Paul Nicklen or National Geographic, Sinclair Broadcasting Group embedded this video through a link from Instagram. What’s more they take a screenshot from the video for its cover image.

A lawsuit followed. According to the Sinclair Broadcasting Group there was no infringement because they didn’t used or displayed the video on they website. They just used an embedded link from Instagram, that is to say the video was stored on another server.

According to the law in the US, most precisely the so-called “server rule” online displays or performances of copyrighted content accomplished through “in-line” or “framing” hyperlinks do not trigger the exclusive rights of public display or performance unless the linker also possesses a copy of the underlying work.

The court in New York disagreed with these arguments. The court stressed that the law is technology-neutral and is “concerned not with how a work is shown, but that a work is shown.”

The main problem from that point of view was the fact that although the video was embedded, the screenshot was taken separately and uploaded on the Sinclair Broadcasting Group website, which allowed their visitors to see one part of the video without playing it based on the link to Instagram. This constitutes a copyright infringement because displaying even a part of one work can be done based on permission from the copyright holders.

Other social media such as YouTube and Vimeo have already included an option where creators can choose whether or not their uploaded content to be embedded. For the time being, Facebook and Instagram haven’t done that which can trigger new lawsuits for copyright infringements in the future.

Source: PetaPixel.

Madrid System Online Services will not be accessible for several days

WIPO reports about the fact that some of the Madrid system online services will not be accessible between 09 and 11.07.2021. This happens due to scheduled maintenance of the system. In particular the services that will be disconnected are: