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Thursday, 23 January 2014

CJEU says that circumventing a protection system may not be unlawful

As announced on the IPKat, this morning the Court of Justice of the European Union published its handy 39-paragraph judgment [press release available here] in Case C-355/12 Nintendo v PC Box [on which see also AG Sharpston's Opinion, commented here and here

This was reference for a preliminary ruling from the Tribunale di Milano (Italy), seeking clarification as to the interpretation of Article 6 of the InfoSoc Directive on technological protection measures. 

In particular, the questions referred by the Italian court read as follows:

1.  Must Article 6 of Directive 2001/29/EC be interpreted, including in the light of recital 48 in the preamble thereto, as meaning that the protection of technological protection measures attaching to copyright protected works or other subject matter may also extend to a system, produced and marketed by the same undertaking, in which a device is installed in the hardware which is capable of recognising on a separate housing mechanism containing the protected works (video games produced by the same undertaking as well as by third parties, proprietors of the protected works) a recognition code, in the absence of which the works in question cannot be visualised or used in conjunction with that system, the equipment in question thus incorporating a system which precludes interoperability with complementary equipment or products other than those of the undertaking which produces the system itself?

2.  If it should be necessary to consider whether or not the use of a product or component to circumvent a technological protection measure predominates over other commercially significant purposes or uses, may Article 6 of Directive 2001/29/EC be interpreted, including in the light of recital 48 in the preamble thereto, as meaning that the national court must apply criteria which give prominence to the particular intended use attributed by the rightholder to the product in which the protected content is inserted or, in the alternative or in addition, criteria of a quantitative nature relating to the extent of the uses under comparison, or criteria of a qualitative nature, that is, relating to the nature and importance of the uses themselves?

   Here's what the CJEU replied:

"Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the concept of an ‘effective technological measure’, for the purposes of Article 6(3) of that directive, is capable of covering technological measures comprising, principally, equipping not only the housing system containing the protected work, such as the videogame, with a recognition device in order to protect it against acts not authorised by the holder of any copyright, but also portable equipment or consoles intended to ensure access to those games and their use.

It is for the national court to determine whether other measures or measures which are not installed in consoles could cause less interference with the activities of third parties or limitations to those activities, while still providing comparable protection of the rightholder’s rights. Accordingly, it is relevant to take account, inter alia, of the relative costs of different types of technological measures, of technological and practical aspects of their implementation, and of a comparison of the effectiveness of those different types of technological measures as regards the protection of the rightholder’s rights, that effectiveness however not having to be absolute. That court must also examine the purpose of devices, products or components, which are capable of circumventing those technological measures. In that regard, the evidence of use which third parties actually make of them will, in the light of the circumstances at issue, be particularly relevant. The national court may, in particular, examine how often those devices, products or components are in fact used in disregard of copyright and how often they are used for purposes which do not infringe copyright."

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