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ECJ Landmark Copyright Ruling

Written by Rehana Ali on 08 March 2013

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ECJ confirms unauthorized retransmission of live TV online breaches Copyright

The ECJ has cleared up the uncertainty surrounding the meaning of the concept of 'communication to the public' contained in Article 3 (1) Directive 2001/29/EC that covers aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society.

The ruling delivered by the ECJ this week means that a large number of sites that transmit live TV on the internet must now get rights clearance from broadcasters and content producers. Legal professionals state the decision will lead to a clampdown by rights holders against such sites, a high number of which stream live sport.

Litigation was initiated against TVCatchup.com by British Channels 4, 5 and ITV, as the site had been streaming shows from the claimant channels without authorization. The ECJ stated:

  • TVCatchup.com was in breach of the above 2001 Copyright legislation that specifies the original broadcasters are the authors of the programmes, meaning they have exclusive rights to restrict or approve use of them.
  • EU law aims to establish a high level of protection for the people creating works in order to allow them to obtain adequate rewards of the re-use of those works.
  • TV broadcasters may prohibit the retransmission of their programmes by websites online.
  • Retransmission of a TV programme online constitutes under certain conditions a communication to the public of work that must be authorized.

The Director of TVCatchup.com didnt seem too bothered by the ruling as it only affected a handful of his companies channels. He stated TVCatchup was Europes first and only legal internet cable service that despite the ruling, was here to stay.

The decision was seen as a clarification on the meaning of communicating to the public and meant an overall strengthening in the rights of the authors (creators, owners) of TV programmes, who quite rightfully should be able to control and profit from the use of their creative skill and effort.

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