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ECJ will deal with Bittorrent and the seeding of porn

New referral procedure of the ECJ

The ECJ will deal with interesting questions from the file-sharing sector in a referral procedure, which could also concern legal issues in Germany. How exactly, remains to be seen.

The applicant, Mircom of Belgium, holds exploitation licences for a number of pornographic films, but does not produce or distribute porn. Mircom is only dedicated to asserting claims for damages against alleged infringers, some of which are returned to the producers.

In order to assert these claims, Mircom would like to request user data from the Internet provider Telnet. Because Telnet refused to do so, the trial took place. In the context of that procedure, questions arose about copyright under EU law, questions relating to data protection law and questions relating to the fact that Mircom itself does not distribute videos.

What are the issues?

Those questions are now to be referred to the ECJ in a request for a preliminary ruling pursuant to Article 98(4). 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Court of Justice.

1.a) Is the downloading of a file via a peer-to-peer network and the simultaneous provision for uploading (“seeding”) of (sometimes in relation to the whole very fragmentary) parts (“pieces”) of it as a public representation within the meaning of Article 3(3) of it. 1 of Directive 2001/29, even though those individual ‘pieces’ are as useless as such?

If so:

(b) Is there a small limit beyond which the ‘seeding’ of these ‘pieces’ would constitute a communication to the public?
c) Is it relevant that the “seeding” can be done automatically (as a result of the settings of the “torrent client”) and therefore unnoticed by the user?

2.a) However, a person who is the contractual owner of copyrights (or related rights) cannot use those rights himself, but can only assert claims for damages against alleged infringers – the business model of which is therefore based on the existence of piracy instead of the fight against it – to use the same rights as chapter II of Directive 2004/48 granted to authors or licensees who use copyright in the normal way?

(b) How can the licensee have suffered a ‘damage’ (within the meaning of Article 13 of Directive 2004/48) as a result of the infringement in this case?

3. Are the specific circumstances set out in Questions 1 and 2 in the context of the balance of interests between, on the one hand, the enforcement of intellectual property rights and the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Charter, such as respect for private life and protection of personal data, in particular in the context of the proportionality test?

4. If, in all these circumstances, the systematic registration and general processing of the IP addresses of a “swarm” of “seafarers” (by the licensee himself and on its behalf by a third party) is in all these circumstances, specifically according to the General Data Protection Regulation Article 6(6) of which 1 book. f, justified?

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Written by Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel specializes in the areas of competition law, copyright law and IT/IP law and specializes in computer games, sports, marketing and streamers/influencers. He supports start-ups in their development, assists them with all legal problems and supports them in business development.

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