A year on from the national implementation deadline of the Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market, the CJEU has upheld controversial Article 17.

By Deborah Kirk, Elva Cullen, Victoria Wan, and Amy Smyth

In September 2016, the European Commission announced its proposal on “the modernisation of copyright” designed to bring “clearer rules for all online players”. Six years later, in September 2022, and following a national transposition deadline of 7 June 2021, the EU Directive on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market 2019/790 (the Directive) is not yet fully implemented across all EU Member States.

Recent developments at the CJEU give some shape to the practical implications of Article 17 of the Copyright Directive.

By Jean-Luc Juhan, Susan Kempe-Mueller, Deborah Kirk, Elva Cullen, Alex Park, Pia Sophie Sösemann, Victoria Wan, and Amy Smyth

7 June 2021 was the implementation deadline for the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive (EU) 2019/790 (the Copyright Directive), yet just four EU Member States (including Germany and the Netherlands) have fully transposed the Copyright Directive, whilst four others (including France and Denmark) have transposed only parts of the Copyright Directive. The delay in implementation is perhaps unsurprising given the controversial nature of certain of the Copyright Directive’s provisions, in particular Article 17.

Recent developments have started to add colour to how Article 17 may work in practice, and how it might align with the broader regulation of platform liability for infringing content. This blog post will discuss these developments and analyse the implications for platforms and rights holders.

This recent CJEU decision raises a number of considerations for content rights holders and for those seeking to link to content online, across both the EU and the UK

By Deborah Kirk, Luke Vaz, and Amy Smyth

Under UK and European laws, the rights of copyright holders include the right to restrict or prohibit reproduction or communication of their original work. Broadly, this means that any such reproduction or communication of the content requires consent from the copyright holder.

In the digital age, it has become increasingly difficult to regulate for this right in practice, with internet users able to replicate and communicate works using a plethora of channels (for instance, re-posting social media content, framing and inline linking of visual and media content). The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) and UK and EU member state national courts have grappled for a number of years with the particular question of whether hyperlinking constitutes communication of the underlying content that it links to (principally in the CJEU cases of Svensson (2014), GS Media (2016), and Filmspeler (2017), and the English courts TuneIn (2021) case) and whether therefore it could constitute an act of copyright infringement if the hyperlinking does not have the consent of the copyright owner.

In VG Bild-Kunst, the latest CJEU case on this topic, the court held that hyperlinking may constitute communication of the underlying content if the rights holder has implemented technical measures to restrict such linking and the linking circumvents those restrictions. The court also held that, for the purposes of restricting linking, a rights holder may impose contractual obligations on a licensee to implement technical measures to prevent such linking. The CJEU’s emphasis in this decision was on the need for effective technical measures to be implemented (or contractually required) to restrict linking, as evidence of the rights holder’s intention to limit its consent to the communication of its content.

Although the decision appears on its face to be a positive development for online marketplaces, it is does not definitively resolve questions of liability.

By Deborah J. Kirk and Elva Cullen

On 2 April 2020, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) delivered its ruling in Coty Germany v Amazon — marking a development for online marketplaces in relation to liability issues. The case had raised the possibility that online marketplaces could be found directly liable for infringing products sold on their platforms.

Currently, if a third party sells infringing products, within the EU, on an online marketplace, the online marketplace has (i) no liability if it  does not have actual knowledge of the infringement or where it acts promptly to remove the infringing content once it becomes aware of it: and (ii) only secondary liability where it has knowledge and fails to remove the infringing content.

The German Federal Court had requested a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of Article 9(3)(b) of the 2017, and Article 9(2)(b) of the now-repealed 2009, Trade Mark Regulations (Council Regulation 2017/1001 and Council Regulation No 207/2009 (as amended by Regulation 2015/2424) respectively) asking: Does a person who, on behalf of a third party, stores goods which infringe trade mark rights, without being aware of that infringement, stock those goods in order to offer them or put them on the market for the purposes of those provisions, if that person does not itself pursue those aims?

The CJEU addressed this question by ruling that a person who, “on behalf of a third party, stores goods which infringe trade mark rights, without being aware of that infringement, must be regarded as not stocking those goods in order to offer them or put them on the market for the purposes of those provisions, if that person does not itself pursue those aims” [emphasis authors’ own].

By Jonathan Parker and Calum Warren

Summary

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has handed down its much-anticipated judgment in Case C-230/16 Coty Germany GmbH v Parfümerie Akzente GmbH (Coty). The case concerns the legality of a prohibition of sales on third-party platforms discernible to the public within Coty Germany’s selective distribution system. The CJEU stated that selective distribution for luxury goods is compatible with Article 101(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) provided that both:

  • Distributors are chosen on the basis of objective criteria of a qualitative nature applied uniformly to all potential distributors in a non-discriminatory fashion
  • The criteria do not go beyond what is necessary

The CJEU addressed the specific issue of the prohibition on discernible third-party platform sales within Coty Germany’s selective distribution system. The court stated that this type of restriction is a justified and proportionate means of protecting the brand image of luxury goods and does not amount to a “hardcore” restriction within the meaning of the EU Vertical Restraints Block Exemption Regulation (VBER). The CJEU’s judgment provides important clarifications on the use of selective distribution for luxury goods and the EU courts’ assessment of such distribution.