1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Decoder cards: the Advocate General’s opinion

In 2006 the customers of a number of English pubs – the Red White and Blue, the Pig & Whistle, Earls, the Crabtree Inn and London House – settled down to watch the footy. Little did they know that this apparently innocent activity was to give rise to a staggering number of complex legal questions. These were referred in the cases FAPL v QC Leisure and Karen Murphy v Media Protection Services. Today Advocate General Kokott has given her opinion. She began by explaining the background:
‘Football Association Premier League … grants its licensees the exclusive right to broadcast and economically exploit the matches within their broadcasting area, generally the country in question. In order to safeguard the exclusive rights of other licensees, they are at the same time required to prevent their broadcasts from being able to be viewed outside the broadcasting area … Undertakings import decoder cards from abroad, in the present cases from Greece and Arab States, into the United Kingdom and offer them to pubs there at more favourable prices than the broadcaster in that State. The FAPL is attempting to stop that practice.’
The Advocate General’s proposed answers to the questions referred are:

1. Question 1 in Case C‑403/08:
Being ‘designed’ or ‘adapted’ within the meaning of Article 2(e) of Directive 98/84/EC means the manufacture or modification of equipment with the intention of providing access to a protected service in an intelligible form without the authorisation of the service provider. Where a conditional access device is made by or with the consent of a service provider and sold subject to a limited authorisation to use the device only to gain access to the protected service in particular circumstances, that device does not therefore become an ‘illicit device’ within the meaning of Article 2(e) of Directive 98/84 if it is used to obtain access to that protected service in a place or in a manner or by a person outside the authorisation of the service provider.

2. Question 3 in Case C‑429/08:
Article 3(2) of Directive 98/84 does not preclude a Member State from invoking a provision of national law that prevents use of a conditional access device in the event of breach of contractual agreements concerning the accessibility of programmes in certain Member States, following the provision of false names and/or addresses in the acquisition of the access device, or the use, for commercial purposes, of an access device intended for private or domestic use.

3. Question 4 in Case C‑403/08:
(a) The question whether works have been reproduced in whole or in part must be answered by means of an interpretation of Article 2 of Directive 2001/29/EC.
(b) Acts of reproduction occur where frames of digital video and audio are created within the memory of a decoder, as those frames constitute part of the broadcast author’s own intellectual creation.
(c) The display of a broadcast on a screen also constitutes reproduction.

4. Question 5 in Case C‑403/08:
Transient copies of a work created on a television screen linked to the decoder box have independent economic significance within the meaning of Article 5(1) of Directive 2001/29, whereas transient copies created in a decoder’s memory do not.

5. Question 6 in Case C‑403/08:
A copyright work is not communicated to the public by wire or wireless means, within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29, where it is received or viewed as part of a satellite broadcast at commercial premises (for example, a bar) or shown at those premises, free of charge, via a single television screen and speakers to members of the public present in those premises.

6. Question 7 in Case C‑403/08:
The right to communicate copyright works by satellite under Article 2 of Directive 93/83/EC includes the right also to receive and watch that broadcast abroad.

7. Questions 6 and 7 in Case C‑429/08 and Questions 7, 8(c) and 9 in Case C‑403/08:
(a) Freedom to provide services under Article 56 TFEU (previously Article 49 EC) precludes provisions which prohibit, on grounds of protection of intellectual property, the use of conditional access devices for encrypted satellite television in a Member State which have been placed on the market in another Member State with the consent of the holder of the rights to the broadcast. It is irrelevant whether such devices were procured and/or enabled in the other Member State by the provision of a false name and false residential address. An individual agreement to use decoder cards only for domestic or private use also does not affect that conclusion.
(b) Freedom to provide services does not preclude national rules which allow the holder of rights to a broadcast to object to its communication in a pub, provided that the restriction of freedom to provide services stemming from the exercise of that right is not disproportionate to the share of the protected rights to the broadcast.
(c) It is irrelevant for the purposes of the present references for preliminary rulings whether the provision of national law infringes freedom to provide services because it applies to programmes included in a broadcasting service provided from a place in the United Kingdom but not from any other Member State.

8. Question 10 in Case C‑403/08 and Question 8 in Case C‑429/08:
Where a programme content provider enters into a series of exclusive licences each for the territory of one or more Member States under which the broadcaster is licensed to broadcast the programme content only within that territory (including by satellite) and a contractual obligation is included in each licence requiring the broadcaster to prevent its satellite decoder cards which enable reception of the licensed programme content from being used outside the licensed territory, such licence agreements are liable to prevent, restrict or distort competition. They are therefore incompatible with Article 101(1) TFEU; it is not necessary to show that such effects have actually occurred.

Guardian report here.

FT report here.

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