2 April 2020CopyrightRory O'Neill

Rental car radios not subject to music royalties, rules CJEU

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has  today ruled that a car rental company is not on the hook for music copyright royalties just because it hires out cars equipped with radios.

Two Swedish royalty collectors,  Stim and  SAMI, had sued local car rental companies Fleetmanager and Nordisk Biluthyrning, arguing that the hiring out of cars with radios constituted a “communication to the public”, and entitled copyright owners to royalties.

Under EU law, copyright owners have the right to control whether their protected works are communicated to the public.

The law around what exactly constitutes a public communication plays an important role in EU copyright enforcement. In December, the CJEU ruled that the sale of second-hand e-books  infringed publishers’ copyright because it constituted an unauthorised communication under the 2001 InfoSoc Directive.

According to Stim and SAMI, who collect royalties on behalf of artists and copyright owners, making radio receivers available to the public via rental cars without paying royalties was effectively making copyright-protected music available without authorisation.

The car rental companies objected to having to pay royalties on these grounds, and the case made its way through Swedish patent and commercial courts before ultimately arriving at the CJEU.

The case was referred to the CJEU by the Swedish Supreme Court, which sought clarification on whether the hiring out of radio-equipped vehicles could be considered a “communication to the public”.

But in today’s ruling, the CJEU said that, under EU law, supplying cars equipped with radio receivers was not the same as “intentionally broadcasting” copyright-protected works.

According to the CJEU, the cars can receive radio broadcasts without “any additional intervention” by the rental companies. This does not meet the threshold for a communication to the public, a court press release said.

Did you enjoy reading this story?  Sign up to our free daily newsletters and get stories sent like this straight to your inbox.

Today’s top stories

The rise of the virtual court?

Only half of law firms engage in CSR activities: INTA report

Allen & Overy hires Norton Rose IP disputes head

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at

More on this story

8 April 2020   Last week’s Court of Justice of the European Union ruling in Stim and SAMI v Fleetmanager put the spotlight firmly back on one of the more puzzling, and seemingly ever-evolving, concepts in EU copyright law—what is, and isn’t, a communication to the public?
16 July 2020   Platforms like YouTube and Cyando are not directly liable for infringing content uploaded by their users, an adviser to the EU’s top court has said.
8 September 2020   Member states are not free to make their own rules as to who qualifies for royalties when sound recordings of performance are played in public or broadcast, according to the Court of Justice of the European Union.