Wednesday 31 January 2018

Copyright Disputes before the CSA (France)


                                                                              Don't forget about me

It may seem that the "natural" forum for resolving copyright disputes between a TV channel and a collective management organization (exercising or managing copyright and related rights on behalf of its members) is a court of law.

An ongoing dispute between French pay-tv channel Canal + and the organziation representing authors and composers of dramatic works (SACD) is a timely reminder of the role that the CSA (Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel or audio-visual regulatory body) can also play in such cases.

As reported in the press (see here), SACD has brought its dispute with Canal + over payment of copyright fees before the CSA.  It claims that the latter has jurisdiction in such matters and this would indeed appear to be the case.

Article 42 of the Act of 30 September 1986 provides (in relevant part):

"Broadcasters [...] may be placed on formal notice [by the CSA] to comply with their obligations under law and regulations and under the principles laid out in Articles 1 and 3-1."

Article 1 of the Act, which guarantees the freedom to broadcast, sets out various limitations to such freedom including the respect of others' property.  Inasmuch as it has been clearly recognized by (French and European) courts that the latter expression includes intellectual property, the case in favour of the CSA's power to act under Article 42 in cases of intellectual property infringement is strong.

Moreover, a broadcaster enters into an agreement (convention) with the CSA when it obtains its license and such agreements generally also stipulate that it is incumbent upon the broadcaster to respect third parties' intellectual property.

Among the parties having standing to bring such matters before the CSA are professional and union bodies representing the audio-visual sector. 

Naturally, the measures the CSA may take in the event that it finds that there has indeed been a violation of a protected principle (such as the respect of intellectual property) are different in nature to those a court would take (e.g., ordering payment of fees and awarding damages).  The CSA may suspend the broadcasting license, impose a fine or, in extreme cases, revoke the license.

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