1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The Higher Regional Court in Munich decides that licensing duties lie with the uploaders, not YouTube

The Higher Regional Court Munich (OLG) decided yesterday that YouTube and its service cannot be called to account for any copyright infringements. Instead, the judges found that the sole responsibility lies with individual uploaders, even though GEMA is keen to point out "YouTube generates substantial economic profits by making the videos available". Based on this decision, YouTube is presently not held financially accountable within the current legal framework when works protected by copyright are used on the platform.. The action against YouTbe was brought by GEMA which represents the copyright of more than 70,000 members (composers, lyricists and music publishers) in Germany, and more than two million copyright owners globally. It is one of the largest collective rights management organisations for authors of musical works in the world.

The GEMA press release says this: On 28 January 2016, the Higher Regional Court Munich (OLG) pronounced the decision regarding the claim for damages against YouTube (file number 29 U 2798/15). This was another instance where the judges could not bring themselves to recognise YouTube as a copyright infringer and subsequently hold it accountable for payment of an adequate remuneration for authors.

 "Today's decision is most regrettable. The court has obviously followed YouTube's argumentation that it is only the uploaders who are responsible for the contents that are retrievable via the service", comments Dr Tobias Holzmüller, General Counsel at GEMA, on the decision: "We consider this to be wrong. Furthermore, the decision is not justified from an economic perspective, as it continues to enable YouTube to generate high advertising revenues without passing them on to musical authors."

The background to the legal dispute is GEMA's demand for an adequate payment to musical authors for the use of their repertoire protected by copyright via YouTube's platform. YouTube has not paid GEMA any licence fees for the use of music on its video platform to date, even though it generates substantial advertising revenues with the music.

Thomas Theune, Director of Broadcasting and Online at GEMA, adds: "In our opinion, YouTube exploits works retrievable via the service. This type of exploitation is subject to licence fee payments. YouTube is not only a technical service provider, it actually conducts itself like a music service. As a consequence, YouTube should, just like a music service, obtain licences and not pass the responsibility on to the uploaders".

The OLG decision is not yet legally binding. The right to appeal was expressly granted. Holzmüller explains the next steps as follows: "We shall study the reasons for the decision and then probably launch an appeal".

"The unfair allocation of value created in the digital economy has been a problem for authors for many years. Creative content has led to substantial income being generated in the online sector." 

"To date, it has been mainly platform operators such as YouTube that have gained an economic benefit by shirking their responsibilities to pay authors adequately, referring to their privileged position as to liability. It is thus time that authors finally get their fair share of the value created in the digital economy." 


Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The CopyKat

Despite a $25 million rebuke by a federal jury in December for contributing to piracy on its Internet service, Music publisher BMG says that Cox Communications has not learned its lesson. BMG said Cox's network continues to be used by its customers for massive copyright infringement, undermining BMG's music sales. The company asked U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady in Alexandria, Virginia, to grant a permanent injunction to force Cox to stop the illegal file sharing saying  “Now, more than a month later, Cox’s network continues to be the site of massive, ongoing infringement of BMG’s copyrights,” the music publisher complained.  “This ongoing infringement inflicts irreparable harm on BMG.” For its part Cox wants the jury's decision reversed as ‘a matter of law'.

In another frustrating day for the music industry, but possibly another nail in the coffin of the current tech friendly 'safe harbour' rules, another German court judge has sided with Google’s YouTube in its battle with German music performing right society GEMA, again confirming that the platform is not responsible for what its users upload. The higher regional court of Munich has now rejected GEMA’s claim for damages to the tune of around €1.6 million ($1.75 million). The court upheld a judgement by the lower regional court in Munich, which said YouTube is just a host for uploaded video.

TechDirt tells us that one of the worst abusers of copyright law (and US copyright law specifically) to censor critical speech is the government of Ecuador - focussing on the activities of Ares Rights, a Spanish company that has been regularly sending DMCA notices in the US to try to suppress any kind of criticism of Ecuador's government (and also on criticism of Ares Rights). TechDirt goes on to say "this should certainly reinforce the fact that copyright is frequently used for censorship. Sometimes it's censorship that many people approve of, such as blocking someone merely making use of someone else's work -- and sometimes it's used to censor political criticism. Until people recognize, however, that copyright is absolutely (and regularly) used for censorship, it's difficult to have any realistic discussion of how to prevent the abusive kind of censorship with kinds that people may find more reasonable."

A task force set up by the US Department of Commerce has rejected the need to introduce a compulsory license to deal with the issue of remixes although it has suggested the development of negotiated guidelines providing greater clarity as to the application of fair use to remixes; It has also recommended not to change the existing regulation on the first sale doctrine, which could have allowed digital copies of works to be traded without compensation for rights holders, and suggested a series of changes in the field of statutory damages including incorporating into the Copyright Act a list of factors for courts and juries to consider when determining the amount of a statutory damages award.   More on Music Week here and on the EFF's website here and of course on this blog - from Marie-Andree!

Ukraine's parliament is considering a bill that would require hosting services and Internet service providers to block websites violating copyright - without any form of judicial oversight. Approved in first reading on January 28th, the bill is reported;y the latest in a series of attempts by a group of lawmakers to introduce “anti-piracy” norms into legislation aimed at protecting the Ukrainian cinema, television and video industries. But the latest round of the proposed amendments could impact a broader number of online platforms and Internet users than past policies.

And now selfies ...... yes again! Firstly back to that black macaque Naruto: Remember that animal rights organisation PETA argued that non-humans like Naruto should be deemed the author of the selfie he took under the US Copyright Act and PETA would look after the macaque's rights and would use the proceeds from licensing if the photograph to benefit Naruto, his family, and his habitat? Well Judge William H. Orrick disagreed and granted a motion to dismiss the suit. But the judge has now said PETA can have a second chance and has given PETA leave to file an amended complaint—meaning that Naruto the macaque will have a second shot at claiming his copyright.

And secondly - a photo competition with a £2,000 holiday prize from Thomson Holidays has ended up in a real spat between the winners, The Bellis family whose son Jacob took a picture of himself and his dad, David, with a gurning Betty the horse in the snap - and Betty's owner, Nicola Mitchell. The Bellis' say Betty photobombed their son's selfie, which was taken on a public path, but Ms Mitchell says that even though she didn't know about the competition, she is entitled to a share of the prize as the Bell's should have asked for her permission before they took a picture of her horse saying "I didn't give him permission to use our horse in a competition" and that she would be phoning Thomson Holidays to "tell them I'm not happy". Now this is an interesting conundrum - what rights DOES Ms Mitchell have over her horse's image - or indeed what claim could she possibly have over the resultant selfie taken by a three year old boy?

PRS and PPL lauch a new joint venture for public peformance licensing

In the United Kingdom, PRS for Music and Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL) have confirmed that, following a strategic review commenced in 2015, the two companies plan to create a joint venture. The new company, jointly and equally owned by PPL and PRS for Music, would focus on serving all PPL and PRS for Music UK public performance licensing customers for both music and sound recording rights. PPL is the music licensing company which works on behalf of record companies and performers to license recorded music played in public. PRS for Music represents the rights of over 115,000 songwriters, composers and music publishers in the UK. 

The two CMOs say that this will further streamline the experience for customers obtaining public performance licences, allowing them to secure a joint PPL and PRS for Music licence |"with a single phone call or a few clicks on the web, paid for with a single invoice." Over the coming months, PRS for Music and PPL will be undertaking the necessary preparatory work for the joint venture "Including engagement with regulators and other key stakeholders."

It is anticipated that the new company would start licensing in 2017, followed by a 12-month period during which the full transition of public performance licensing would be completed. It is likely that the new joint venture will be located in a UK city outside the M25.

Robert Ashcroft, Chief Executive, PRS for Music, said, “Creating a single point of contact for our UK public performance customers would allow us to significantly simplify music licensing for UK businesses. It is in our members’ and customers’ interests to ensure that our licensing is ever more accurate and efficient. A joint venture between our organisations would be a landmark event for both societies.”

Peter Leathem, CEO, PPL commented, “Both our organisations firmly believe that the proposed joint venture would be a very positive development for both our customers and our members, building on the successful joint licensing solutions and other joint working initiatives that PPL and PRS for Music have delivered over the last few years.”

For an interesing analysis of the cost efficiency of PRS and PPL see MBW here

Monday, 1 February 2016

Changes Ahead in U.S. Copyright Statutory Damages Law

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Internet Policy Task Force  (the Task Force), which is led by both the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), published on January 28 a  White Paper on Remixes, First Sale, and Statutory Damages which addresses three issues:

1)      the legal framework for the creation of remixes;
2)       the relevance and scope of the first sale doctrine in the digital environment; and
3)      the application of statutory damages in the context of individual file-sharers and secondary liability for large-scale online infringement.

The Task Force had published a Green Paper, “Copyright Policy, Creativity, and Innovation in the Digital Economy” on July 31, 2013, which had identified these three issues warranting further review by the Task Force.  

The Task Force then published a Notice in the Federal Register seeking comment on these issues. It conducted a public meeting in December 2013 and also held roundtables around the U.S., before reviewing comments from stakeholders as diverse as rights holder organizations, Internet-based companies, public interest groups, libraries, academics, and individual authors and artists.


Remixes use existing works, some of them still protected by copyright, to create new works, which may be compilations or derivative works under the Copyright Act, or collective works.  As noted by the Task Force, user generated content (“UGC”) “has become a hallmark of the Internet” (p.6).

Some of the remixes, such as fan fiction and fan videos, are created by non-professionals, while others, such as music mashups, are created by professionals and may even be sold. Several stakeholders noted that “the lines between amateur and professional, and between noncommercial and commercial, are often blurred” (p. 7). Others noted that “noncommercial activities can cause harm to the market for the original work or for licensed derivative works” (p.8).

Some remixes are fair use, some are not, and determining what is fair use or not is not easily determinable, even by attorneys or by courts, as noted by some stakeholders (p.10). The Copyright Office maintains an online fair use index to help determine whether a particular use may be fair or not, but this tool alone does not provide an absolute determination of whether a particular use is fair or not.

The Task Force did not believe that a compulsory license, such as the one provided by section 115 of the Copyright Act for phono records, would be advisable. At the time this compulsory license was enacted, one company had the monopoly on the piano roll market, and the Task Force has not seen evidence that a similar monopoly exists today for remixes or their licensing.

Also, such compulsory licenses would allow the creation of derivative works, whereas statutory licenses now only permit reproducing, distributing, and public performance of the licensed work, without alteration (p. 26). While the Task Force acknowledged that remixes are “valuable contributions to society… the record has not established a need to amend existing law to create a specific exception or a compulsory license for remix uses” (p. 4).

Instead, the Task Force recommends three goals to be pursued so that remixers would understand when a use is fair or not, and to understand how to obtain licenses.
These three goals are:  

1.       developing negotiated guidelines which would provide greater clarity as to the application of fair use to remixes;
2.       expanding the availability of a wider variety of voluntary licensing options; and
3.       increasing educational efforts aimed at broadening an understanding of fair use.

The guidelines could be developed independently or with the collaboration of the government (p. 28) and should be written in language easily understandable by the general public (p.29). The White Paper notes that such guidelines already exist, such as the Principles for User Generated Content Services which aims at “foster[ing] an online environment that promotes the promises and benefits of UGC Services and protects the rights of Copyright Owners.”

As licensing would remain voluntary, authors and rights holders would have the option to refuse granting a license, “especially when the prospective licensee is seeking permission for a use that the author or rights holder considers offensive” (p. 30).

A stakeholder gave the example of the Beatles Hey Jude song used to create an Anti-Semitic work (see note 44 of the White Paper). But such hateful use would probably be fair use, and protected by the First Amendment. Only granting authors a moral right would allow them to bar every use they find offensive. By the way, what is “offensive”?  The Beatles example would be considered offensive by many, if not all, but what about use of a protected work to comment on issues where opinions diverge more, such as political opinions?

First Sale Doctrine

The Task Force noted that works distributed online are often licensed, not sold, and “this could make the resale market obsolete” (p. 35). Some stakeholders noted that the contractual terms of such licenses are often “opaque” (p.39).

Libraries expressed concerns that their use of digital works may be limited, including eBook library loans (p. 47). Indeed, libraries may only lend books thanks to the first sale doctrine, but the Task Force believes that “early government intervention into the eBook market could skew the development of innovative and mutually beneficial arrangements” between eBook publishers and libraries. However, this may change if libraries are not able to “appropriately serve their patrons due to overly restrictive terms imposed by publishers” (p.4).

In order to preserve the first sale doctrine in the online environment, the Task Force believes it is not advisable to extend the first sale doctrine to digital transmissions of copyrighted works, because of the risks that would cause to copyright owners’ primary markets. 

The Task Force noted that digital works are offered at lower prices than the hard copies of the works and thus deliver the benefit offered by the first sale doctrine to consumers who may purchase used books and used copies of protected works at a lower price (p.58).

While consumers are not allowed to resell their digital copies, “[i]t is difficult… to determined the value of this lost benefit” as the Task Force does not have “sufficient data to conduct an authoritative  cost-benefit analysis of the trade-offs between the consumer benefits from the first sale doctrine and from licensed online services”(p. 59).

So U.S. law is not (yet) ready to authorize the resale of digital goods.  

Statutory Damages

Statutory damages have been applied against individuals sharing files online and against online services found to be secondarily liable for such infringements. Remix artists often refrain from using a protected work, even they believe their use is fair, as fair use can not be accurately predicted and “the threat of high statutory damages can stifle lawful activity” (p.33). Some stakeholders also argued that statutory damages have a chilling effect on innovation and investment (p.80), an assessment disputed by some right holder groups (p. 81).  

Statutory damages have also allowed the development of a noxious “business model” of massive copyright infringement suits (aka copyright trolls), which abuse the litigation process by filing hundreds of boilerplate copyright infringement suits, using the subpoena power of the courts to find the identity of Internet users. These suits are, however, rarely litigated, but instead are settled after intimidating correspondence (p. 74).

The Task Force recommends three amendments to the Copyright Act so that the needs of copyright owners, users, and intermediaries may be better balanced:

First, the Task Force recommended that Congress add a new paragraph in Section 504 of the Copyright Act to provide a list of factors for courts and juries to consider when determining the amount of a statutory damages award. It proposed the insertion of this new clause in subsection Section 504(c): (p.87)

FACTORS TO CONSIDER -- In making any award under this subsection, a court shall consider the following nonexclusive factors in determining the appropriate amount of the award:

(1) The plaintiff’s revenues lost and the difficulty of proving damages.
(2) The defendant’s expenses saved, profits reaped, and other benefits from the infringement.
(3) The need to deter future infringements.
(4) The defendant’s financial situation.
(5) The value or nature of the work infringed.
(6) The circumstances, duration, and scope of the infringement, including whether it was commercial in nature.
(7) In cases involving infringement of multiple works, whether the total sum of damages, taking into account the number of works infringed and number of awards made, is commensurate with the overall harm caused by the infringement.
(8) The defendant’s state of mind, including whether the defendant was a willful or innocent infringer.
(9) In the case of willful infringement, whether it is appropriate to punish the defendant and if so, the amount of damages that would result in an appropriate punishment.

The Task Force explained that these factors “should be weighted holistically” (p. 88).

Secondly, the Task Force recommended amending Section 401(d) and 402 (d) of the Copyright Act to expand eligibility for the lower “innocent infringement” statutory damages awards (p. 97).
Thirdly, the Task Force recommended giving courts discretion to assess statutory damages other than on a strict per-work basis in cases of non-willful secondary liability for large scale online services (p. 97).

Small Claims Tribunal

The Task Force is also in favor of establishing a small claims tribunal, as it believes this “could help diminish the risk of disproportionate levels of damages against individual file-sharers” (p.5). This has been proposed by the Copyright Office itself.

The tribunal would be centralized, in a single location, and would provide for a cap on awards of both statutory and actual damages. There would be limited discovery and counterclaims, and all relevant defenses could be asserted, including fair use. Also, it would not be mandatory to be represented by an attorney, and the tribunal could award costs and fees against frivolous litigants (p. 99). This is a very interesting proposal and I hope it will be implemented soon. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

The CopyKat - putting you in the picture?

Debate on Hong Kong's contentious copyright amendment bill was cut short in the Legislative Council not because of protests or opposition  – but because not enough members showed up. The premature adjournment came a day after the commerce minister said he was optimistic that there would be enough time for discussion, despite the nearing Lunar New Year holiday and sessions for scrutinising the chief executive’s policy address and the financial secretary’s budget speech. All but one Pan-democrats were absent when the last quorum bell rang on Friday. House committee chairman Andrew Leung Kwan-yuen, who chaired the meeting in the absence of the ill president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing, said he regretted the adjournment. More on the SCMP here.

The BBC tell us that a breach of copyright claim against the Welsh government over photographs used of Dylan Thomas in a tourism drive has been thrown out by a court in Ireland. Visit Wales used photos taken in the 1930s to help promote the 100th anniversary of the poet's birth. But the judge said that if the case was to proceed, Pablo Star Ltd, which owns the copyright. would have to bring the action in a court in Wales or England. Interstingly The Welsh government claimed it has sovereign immunity. But there was worse yet to come for a Mr Haydn Price, who owns Pablo Star Limited. The BBC again tell us that Mr Price has just lost a libel action against 93 year old Gwen Watkins, whose husband Vernon took the Dylan Thomas photos. It seems Mr Price persuaded Mrs Watkins to sell him the copyright in several of the photos for the princely sum of £1,000. The Judge in the libel case, Judge Raymond Groarke, the told Dublin's Circuit Court that he was dismissing the claim as there was no evidence that a latter from Mrs Watkins to Mr Price saying he was a 'bad man' had ever been published: The BBC report that Judge Groarke added "I am not going to go so far as to say Mr Price took advantage of Mrs Watkins but he certainly should have been a lot more careful with the way he dealt with an elderly person."  Mr Price reportedly has a “zero tolerance” approach to copyright infringement and has had some success in other actions. In the current case against the Welsh Government, it was reported that Mr Price was claiming €3,000 for every use of the photos.

Mark Towle,who made replica Batmobiles until being enjoined, has petitioned the US Supreme Court to review his dispute with  DC Comics. He argues that the Batmobile doesn't deserve copyright protection as its a 'useful article'. In february 2013 the District Court held that the “The ‘functional elements’ – e.g., the fictional torpedo launchers, the Bat-scope, and anti-fire systems – are only ‘functional’ to the extent that they helped Batman fight crime in the fictional Batman television series and movies. Thus, the Batmobile’s usefulness is a construct.”  Last September, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. Towle had argued that the replicas were fully functioning automobile. In her opinion, 9th Circuit judge Sandra Ikuta disagreed saying the car also has "character" with "physical as well as conceptual qualities," and "sufficiently delineated" to be recognizable whenever and wherever it appears. More on the Hollywood Reporter here. The CopyKat doubts the SCOTUS will take on the case. A final knockout blow for Towle. 

Sheep on Top - and yes, (C) 2015 Ben Challis
As photography is my new hobby (and yes, I am  published!), but still reeling from that French Jimi Hendrix decision, the CopyKat was a little horrified to read that  photojournalists in Serbia have had to appeal to lawmakers to reject a proposal by the ruling party to define their work as the result of a “routine mechanical act” and therefore not worthy of copyright protection. Not worthy!!!!! Photojournalists in Serbia (and quite honestly elsewhere) frequently complain that newspapers and Internet portals publish their pictures without payment, and are happy to "risk being sued in Serbia’s overloaded, inefficient and sometimes corrupt courts." The Serbian Progressive Party’s latest proposals to parliament "would legalise such theft", photojournalists warned.

And finally, we've just been alerted to a new online music platform, Wefre, which TorrentFeak  says is clearly 'inspired' by Spotify, but which claims to use officially available APIs from licensed sources to provide 'free unlimited music' to fans. TorrentFreak says experts believe that borrows its music from YouTube's API feed and its song/album database from Spotify. A Kickstarter fundraiser is underway to help build iOS and Android apps - but we expect rapid attention from the major and leading independent record labels in the very near future. TorrentFreak says: Not only does this beautiful YouTube / Spotify mashup out-perform the recently defunct Aurous in every way, Wefre uses officially available APIs from already licensed sources. Legal? We might not have to wait long to find out.  UPDATE (30.01.16) : A two week old music streaming site, Wefre, has announced that until further legal research is done, it will close access to its music streaming platform. "Initially, the Spanish-based team didn't think that they were breaking any laws because they were providing the service through YouTube's and Spotify's official APIs for developers. Wefre claimed that they created the service whilst fulfilling the terms of use of those APIs." The team of three students behind Wefre wrote "We want to point [out] that we haven't received any official warning from Google or Spotify, we never wanted to profit at the expense of the artists and, before making a huge mistake, we want to seek advice in a smarter way."

Thursday, 21 January 2016

The CopyKat - its no laughing matter

The Japan Times says that architects whose design for the original 2020 Tokyo Olympics stadium was scrapped due to ballooning costs say they have rejected a request to give up the copyright to their plans in return for an overdue final payment. U.K. based Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) was chosen in an international contest to build the main Tokyo stadium, but the much-criticized futuristic design was dropped last year. A design by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma with a price tag of ¥149 billion ($1.27 billion), as opposed to an estimated ¥252 billion for Hadid’s plans, was chosen last month instead.

A copyright suit filed against rapper 50 Cent over his 2007 hit “I Get Money” has been dismissed. The plaintiff, Tyrone Simmons (aka Young Caliber) filed papers against 50 and the song’s producer William Stanberry in 2010, claiming they had infringed on his rights to use the instrumental for “I Get Money”, reported Billboard. Simmons also named Universal Music Group, Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment as defendants.
Officials at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled the case was “time-barred” adding Simmons had waited beyond the allowed three years to file the suit. More here.

Beastie Boys have resolved their lawsuit that accused the energy drinks company Monster Beverage Corp of using excerpts from five of the hip-hop group’s songs without permission in a video promoting a Canadian snowboarding competition. Capitol Records and Universal-Polygram International Publishing  settled a related lawsuit against Monster over the same video. The terms were not disclosed. Orders dismissing the cases were filed in two Manhattan federal courts but it appears Monster dropped its appeal of a $1.7 million jury verdict and an award of $667,849 in legal fees which resulted from the Beastie Boys’ lawsuit.

Readers will no doubt remember the epic battle between Supap Kirtsaeng, who built a business on eBay buying textbooks in Asia and reselling them to students in the US, and academic publisher John Wiley & Sons who took action against him. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court who ruled in favour of Kirtsaeng under the first sale doctrine, but he's going back to the Supreme Court to try and get his attorney's fees paid by Wiley, having been rejected by both the district court and the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit. Why? Well Kirtsaeng's petition says this: "Had Kirtsaeng prevailed in the Ninth or Eleventh Circuit, he would have obtained his reasonable attorneys’ fees. Had he prevailed in the Fifth or Seventh Circuits, he would have had a rebuttable presumption in favor of obtaining his attorneys’ fees. Had he prevailed in the Third, Fourth, or Sixth Circuits, Kirtsaeng very likely would have obtained his attorneys’ fees. Unluckily for Kirtsaeng, Wiley sued him in the Southern District of New York, and so when Kirtsaeng prevailed, he prevailed in the Second Circuit, where Second Circuit precedent meant Kirtsaeng could not obtain his attorneys’ fees."

And finally, and this is no laughing matter, we have a very interesting article from US attorney Dylan Price on .... wait for it ...... the potential for the infringement of copyright in jokes. As Dylan says, the case in question is a surprisingly rare foray into humour by the courts, but he tells is that last summer, comedian Robert Kaseberg filed a copyright infringement suit against Conan O’Brien, among others, alleging that O’Brien incorporated four jokes written by Kaseberg in the opening monologues of his television show “Conan.” According to the complaint,  Kaseberg published each of the jokes – all of which were based on then-current events and news stories – on his personal blog and Twitter feed on various dates between January and June, 2015, only to have O’Brien feature the same jokes in his monologues on the same respective dates. The case has yet to get to court by Dylan gives us a thorough review of the position of jokes under copyright in US law - in particular the decision Foxworthy v. Customer Tees, Inc., 879 F.Supp. 1200 (N.D. Ga. 1995) and its well worth a read on the Sheppard Mullin IP Law Blog here.

Monday, 18 January 2016

New CJEU reference on TV and radio broadcasts ... in hotel rooms

From hotel rooms ...
Will the Court of Justice of the European Union ever get tired of references for a preliminary ruling on the right of communication to the public?

It's probably not the right time to ask, as a brand new reference on this very topic has just been made from Austria (although this time not in relation to the InfoSoc Directive), as 1709 Blog friend Axel Paul Ringelhann (Ringlaw) explains.

Here's what Axel Paul writes:

"C-641/15 - Verwertungsgesellschaft Rundfunk (VGR) is yet another case before the CJEU concerning communication to the public. 

As can be inferred form the question referred to the CJEU it appears that VGR, the Austrian collecting society managing rights for broadcasting organisations, has taken legal action against an operator of a hotel for infringement of broadcasting rights.

On 2 December 2015 the Vienna Commercial Court lodged a request for a preliminary ruling with the CJEU concerning  interpretation of Article 8(3) of Directive 2006/115/EC on rental right and lending right and on certain rights related to copyright in the field of intellectual property (Rental and Lending Rights Directive). 

The referring court wants to know whether the criterion of ‘payment of an entrance fee’ within the meaning of Article 8(3) Rental and Lending Rights Directive is satisfied where

-        separate hotel rooms are equipped with TV-sets and the hotel operator distributes the signal of TV and radio programs, capable of being seen or heard by means of these apparatus (‘hotel room TV’), and

-        the hotel operator charges payment for rooms per night (‘room price’), which also includes the use of a TV-set and TV and radio programs, capable of being seen or heard by means of these apparatus.

... to spas ...
One might wonder why, once again, the CJEU has to deal with communication to the public and TV in hotels (think of the CJEU judgments in SGAEPPIOSA)

As opposed to former cases, which were either based on Article 3(1) InfoSoc Directive (SGAEOSA) or on Article 8(2) Rental and Lending Rights Directive (PPISCF), the case at hand addresses the question of communication to the public under the angle of the broadcaster’s signal right, as provided by Article 8(3) Rental and Lending Rights Directive (but see also Rome Convention Article 13(d)).

The broadcaster’s rights is a very contentious topic in Austrian copyright law. 

Unfortunately the recent copyright reform which entered into force on 1 October 2015 and established, inter alia, levies on storage media, open access clause for scientific papers, and further limitations and exceptions with regard to educational purposes, did not bring much legal certainty as regards this other area of law.

Here's the original version of the questions in German.
... and back to hotel rooms

Ist das Tatbestandsmerkmal „gegen Eintrittsgeld“ des Art 8 Abs. 3 der Richtlinie 2006/115/EG des Europäischen Parlaments und des Rates vom 12.12.2006 zum Vermiet- und Verleihrecht sowie zu bestimmten dem Urheberrecht verwandten Schutzrechten im Bereich des geistigen Eigentums erfüllt, wenn

- in den einzelnen Zimmern eines Hotels TV-Geräte bereitgestellt sind und vom Hotelbetreiber das Signal diverser Fernseh- und Hörfunkprogramme durch diese wahrnehmbar gemacht wird ("Hotelzimmer-TV"), und

- vom Hotelbetreiber für die Benutzung des Zimmers (mit "Hotelzimmer-TV") ein Entgelt für das Zimmer pro Nächtigung ("Zimmerpreis") verlangt wird, das auch die Nutzung des TV-Geräts und der dadurch wahrnehmbaren Fernseh- und Hörfunkprogramme mitumfasst?"

Thanks so much Axel Paul!

If you wish to comment on this case, then you have time until 28 January 2016 to let the UK Intellectual Property Office know what you think. You can email your views to policy@ipo.gov.uk.

Friday, 15 January 2016

The CopyKat

Marie-Andree tells us that photographer Donald Graham has filed a copyright infringement suit against notorious 'appropriation artist' Richard Prince, the Gagosian Gallery, and its owner Larry Gagosian. Graham claims that Prince used the “Rastafarian Smoking a Joint” photograph without permission in the New Portraits exhibition. Prince presented inkjet prints on canvases of images he had found on Instagram, complete with his own comments as @richardprince4nd. This did not fare well with several authors of the photographs, but so far Donald Graham is the only one who has taken legal action - despite the earlier mostly unsuccessful attempts by Patrick Cariou to claim infringement on a similar basis. TechDirt have a robust examination of the issues here including the view "The next we heard of Richard Prince -- who, it should be admitted, sounds like a real jerk -- he had set up an exhibit where he had printed out people's Instagram photos along with some fake "comment" text added by Prince himself, and was charging obscene amounts of money for them" ........

PETA, the not for profit organisation that campaigns to for animals' rights, has failed in its attempt to get copyright in the infamous monkey selfie transferred to the black macaque monkey Naruto, who too the snap.  US District Judge William Orrick ruled that the monkey, who borrowed British photographer David Slater's camera and took the selfies, cannot own the copyright in the pictures. During a brief hearing the judge, dismissing the suit, stated: "I'm not the person to weigh into this. This is an issue for Congress and the president. If they think animals should have the right of copyright they're free, I think, under the Constitution, to do that."  Works "produced by nature, animals, or plants" cannot be granted copyright protection, the US Copyright Office said in 2014. Slater's Motion to Dismiss said "A monkey, an animal rights organization and a primatologist walk into federal court to sue for infringement of the monkey's claimed copyright." .... "What seems like the setup for a punch line is really happening" adding "monkey see monkey sue is not good law".

BoingBoing tells us that Tommy Funderburk, who was previously was known as a "copyright troll" and whose company, Payartists, sent legal threats to people accused of copyright infringement, has ditched that business model and his new startup, Muzit, uses the same Bittorrent surveillance software and DMCA process to send letters on behalf of musicians, but these letters don't demand money - instead, they invite fans to collaborate with musicians, offering them membership in fan clubs and asking them to sign up for mailing lists. "Fans not Foes." is the new company's mantra it seems.

A group of German publishers has filed a civil complaint against Google. The group, constituted as VG Media, claims to be enforcing Germany’s “Ancillary Copyright” Law, passed in 2013. This is the latest episode in an ongoing dispute between German news publishers and Google.

And finally, a private company in China has been found to be unlawfully acting as a collecting society. The Jiangsu High People’s Court has ruled that Shenzhen Shengying Internet Technology Ltd had, since 2013, wrongfully collected license fees from karaoke bars and had filed lawsuits across the country to enforce its 'rights'. The company acted on behalf of record companies but was also alleged to have fraudulently obtained copyright certificates for other works. The Court reiterated that only the five collective management societies designated by the National Copyright Administration of China (NCAC) have legitimate authority to carry out collective rights management. More here (in Chinese).