26 April 2017Copyright

Multimedia player sellers may be liable for copyright infringement, says CJEU

Sellers of multimedia players enabling films that are available illegally on the internet to be viewed for free on TV could constitute copyright infringement, Europe’s highest court ruled today.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued a judgment in Stichting Brein, after anti-piracy group Stichting Brein had sued a one-man business acting under the name Filmspeler.

Filmspeler sold different types of media players over the internet on which open-source software was installed along with add-ons.

These add-ons allowed users to watch streaming websites on their TVs, and some of the movies, series and live broadcasts of sport events were made available by third parties without the consent of the copyright owners.

According to the court, Filmspeler had advertised the multimedia players as making it possible to watch TV easily and for free without the consent of the copyright owners.

Brein asked the District Court of Midden-Nederland in the Netherlands to order Filmspeler to stop selling multimedia players or offering hyperlinks that illegally give users access to protected works.

It argued that by marketing the multimedia players, Filmspeler had made a communication to the public in breach of the Netherlands law on copyright (which transposed directive 2001/29).

The court decided to refer questions to the CJEU.

These included a query on whether there is a communication to the public within the meaning of the 2001/29 directive when a media player is sold with add-ons that provide links to available content without the rights owner’s authorisation.

According to the CJEU, the answer is yes—the sale of a multimedia player is a communication to the public.

The owner of Filmspeler, “in full knowledge of the consequences of his conduct, pre-installs on the multimedia player add-ons that make it possible to have access to protected works and to watch those works on a television said the CJEU in a press release.

According to the referring court, the multimedia players have been purchased by a “fairly large number of people”, and the CJEU said that the communication at issue covers all those people who could potentially acquire a media player and have an internet connection.

Because of this, the communication is aimed at an indeterminate number of potential recipients and involves a large number of people.

In addition, the provision of the multimedia player is made with a view to making a profit, said the CJEU.

“The court also finds that temporary acts of reproduction on that multimedia player of a copyright-protected work obtained by streaming on a website belonging to a third party offering that work without the consent of the copyright holder cannot be exempted from the right of reproduction.”

Filmspeler’s main attraction for purchasers was the pre-installation of the add-ons, said the court, adding that a purchaser accesses a “free and unauthorised offer of protected works deliberately and in full knowledge of the circumstances”.

It concluded that acts of temporary reproduction of the copyrighted works on the multimedia players “adversely affects the normal exploitation of those works and causes unreasonable prejudice to the legitimate interests” of the copyright owners.

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