26 April, 2016

Links A-OK - Hyperlinking to Infringing Material Online is OK, Says AG Wathelet

Since the CJEU's decision in Svensson the fate of hyperlinking in a European context has been up in the air, especially when it comes to copyright infringing materials and directly linking to that content. This is an incredibly important issue, and one that might have ramifications beyond our wildest imaginations, leading to great issues to how the Internet operates in today's world. While the CJEU deliberates its decision in the matter, Advocate General Wathelet provided us with a preview on the potential swing of the CJEU's vote in an opinion that was awaited by many.

The case of GS Media BV v Sanoma Media Netherlands BV dealt with the sharing of images online, specifically linking to images that have been deemed to infringe copyright. Sanoma Media, the publisher of the famous magazine Playboy, had commissioned a photographer to take photos for the magazine of Britt Dekker, a Dutch TV personality. Prior to their publication in Playboy the photos were leaked, and found their way onto an Australian file data storing website Filefactory. These images were then published on the website of a Dutch tabloid magazine, GeenStijl, who linked directly to the photos' location on Filefactory (where they could be downloaded as a zip file). Despite Sanoma's demands to do so, GeenStijl refused to remove the link to the website, although they were eventually removed from Filefactory. After pursuing GS Media through the courts, GeenStijl repeatedly posted new links to the photos in subsequent articles about the litigation, and the matter eventually ended up for the CJEU to decide.

The questions referred to the CJEU essentially dealt with whether the sharing of a hyperlink on another website containing infringing materials would be a 'communication to the public' under the InfoSec Directive.

In his opinion, AG Wathelet summarized the first question asked from the court as "...whether Article 3(1) of [the] Directive... must be interpreted as meaning that the provision on a website of a hyperlink to another website operated by a third party, which is accessible to the general internet public and on which works protected by copyright are made available to the public, without the authorisation of the copyright holder constitutes an act of communication to the public". Additionally, the Advocate General had to give an opinion on whether this question would be impacted by knowledge on part of the sharing party as to the lack of consent to share the content, and whether the previous publication of the work (or lack thereof) is of any relevance.

What remained a point of contention in the case is the findings in both the Svensson and BestWater cases, which the Advocate General first addressed. What both of the cases ultimately boiled down to was that the provision of hyperlinks to works that are freely available would not amount to a 'communication to the public', and therefore escapes infringement. Authorization of the initial publication was never an issue (although not approved in BestWater), or seemed to affect both decisions according to his opinion.

Ultimately, the Advocate General looked at the two criteria set out to establish a communication to a public, meaning looking at whether there has been 'an act of communication', and that it has been done to a 'public' (or a new public, considering Svensson).

Some links can lead to unsavory results
In answering the first criterion, the Advocate General took the position that the provision of a hyperlink to another website containing infringing works would not be an act communication, explaining that: "Although it is true that hyperlinks posted on a website make it much easier to find other websites and protected works available on those websites and therefore afford users of the first site quicker, direct access to those works, I consider that hyperlinks which lead, even directly, to protected works do not ‘make available’ those works to a public where the works are already freely accessible on another website, but merely facilitate the finding of those works". The Advocate General therefore distinguishes between the provision of the materials, and the finding or accessing of those materials, even if they infringe or not. What seems important in his opinion is the initial provision of the works, and not their subsequent sharing even via hyperlinks. He further iterated this position through the decision in Football Association Premier League and Others, where the intervention of the materials (and their subsequent provision for the first time as infringing copies) was key, which a hyperlink would not do, as it does merely facilitate an already available work. He concluded that "...in order to establish an act of communication, the intervention of the ‘hyperlinker’ must be vital or indispensable in order to benefit from or enjoy works". In his opinion GS Media therefore did not communicate the works, as their intervention was not indispensable in order to access the infringing works. He also considered that, as the question was answered in the negative, the question of a lack of authorization (and knowledge thereof) was irrelevant, even through 'nefarious' intentions.

The Advocate General then considered the question of whether the act of communication was done to a 'public'. He outright rejected the applicability of the 'new public' consideration borne in Svensson, deeming it not applicable in this instance (and potentially in other instances as well as a result). This would only be applicable when the work has been authorized, and thus accessed illegally for the benefit of a new public (i.e. from behind a pay-wall). Even if it applied in the event of a lack of authorization, the above intervention considerations would still apply, negating the assessment as the hyperlink would not add to the potential public that already could access the materials. He concluded that question 2 would therefore be answered in the negative.

The Advocate General made general observations as to this issue and the Internet: "...aside from the fact that, in principle, the posting of the hyperlinks in the main proceedings does not, in my view, constitute a ‘communication to the public’... I consider that any other interpretation of that provision would significantly impair the functioning of the Internet and undermine one of the main objectives of [the] Directive... namely the development of the information society in Europe. Such an interpretation could also distort the ‘fair balance of rights and interests between the different categories of rightholders, as well as between the different categories of rightholders and users of protected subject-matter’". He further emphasized the necessity of hyperlinking for the functionality of the Internet, and the lack of ability of Internet users to check sources of materials and whether they were authorized or not. If the posting of hyperlinks were to infringe copyright, users would not post them as readily, which would impede the development of the worldwide web.

The opinion leaves the matter quite open, and departed from the CJEU's previous considerations in Svensson and BestWater. Whether the CJEU follow the Advocate General's opinion remains to be seen, but as he wisely raised in his opinion, hyperlinking is essential to how the Internet works, and a balance has to be struck between the provision of links, but the protection of intellectual property from those seeking to blatantly benefit or even undermine this privilege. This writer will await the CJEU's decision with great intrigue, and hopes they will follow along the lines of the Advocate General.

Source: IPKat 

18 April, 2016

Bowled Away - 8-Second Cricket Clips Infringe Copyright

As a major consumer of North American sports, this writer is very reliant on the provision of highlights for this favorite sports, enabling him to keep on track with the latest developments and just to indulge in great sporting feats. Even highlights, however, are big business, being an important draw for new (and old) viewers to subscribe to TV or on-demand services providing full games in many sports, or just servicing as a vehicle to sell more merchandise through official channels. The emergence of social media has changed this dynamic, allowing for the provision of live highlights or video clips, showcasing sports events as they happen, with or without the blessing of the sporting organizations. With this in mind, would short clips of sports activities constitute copyright infringement or would app creators be allowed to let their users share these moments as they please?

The case of England And Wales Cricket Board Ltd v Tixdaq Ltd dealt with an app called Fanatix, which, among providing sports news, allowed for its users to record clips (up to 8 seconds long) using their smartphones or tablets, and sharing them with like-minded sports fans who might not be able to follow the action live (encapsulating mostly the 'highlights' of an event). The clips could be viewed through the app or on Fanatix's social media pages. The England and Wales Cricket Board own the rights to broadcast all video on cricket matches played in England and Wales, and upon noticing clips of cricket games broadcast via the Fanatix app, took its owner Tixdaq to court for copyright infringement.

Tixdaq argued that their use of the works was within the remit of fair dealing, specifically for the purposes of reporting current events under section 30 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. As such, the substantiality of the copying needed to be assessed, including for the purposes of infringement. Justice Arnold considered both parties' submissions, and saw that substantiality is to be assessed considering "...elements which reflect the rationale for protecting broadcasts and first fixations, that is to say, the investment made by the broadcaster or producer". One should not confuse this with the requirement of originality in relation to other types of works (as the case concerned broadcasts, not e.g. literary works). He summarized the correct test as the consideration of "...the degree of reproduction both quantitatively and qualitatively, having regard to the extent to which the reproduction exploits the investment made by the broadcaster or producer".

In his early consideration of fair dealing, Justice Arnold noted that any use made for the purposes of reporting current events would have to take into account "...whether the extent of the use is justified by the informatory purpose".

Citizen journalism: the backbone of an informed society
Justice Arnold then moved onto the interpretation of the phrase 'for the purpose of reporting current events'. In his judgment, the phrase should be interpreted objectively, yet liberally, so as to allow for the effective facilitation of free speech. The use, even in the remit of free speech and fair dealing, would still have to be assessed to the extent the material is used is justified by the informatory purpose.

In determining whether the 8-second clips were a substantial amount, Justice Arnold saw that they indeed were, as every clip contained highlights and points of interest, and therefore value. Because of this value the copying would be substantial, even though in a quantitative sense it would not necessarily be.

Finally, Justice Arnold addressed whether the use would fall under fair dealing. He briefly accepted that contemporaneous sporting events could be classed as current events for the purposes of section 30(2), however excluding any possible footage of interviews and punditry (within limits). This can also include 'citizen journalism', under which the use within the app does somewhat fall. Justice Arnold deemed that the use of the material was not reporting of current events under the section, as the video clips posted "...were not used in order to inform the audience about a current event, but presented for consumption because of their intrinsic interest and value". The objective of the app was also purely commercial, and designed to utilize the clips to their fullest in the collection of revenues, rather than as a medium for sincere journalism. The copying of the works therefore infringed the copyright owned by ECB.

The case is very interesting, especially in the context of new age media and 'citizen journalism'. Even though the app's use of the works was clearly nothing but an attempt to benefit from the blatant sharing of clips of cricket games, subsequent changes to the app forced users to 'report' more on the action, clearly being driven towards the use under fair dealing. One can think of other social media outlets, such as Twitter or Vine, where extensive commentary might not be possible, as potential candidates that might fall foul of section 30(2) if taken to court. Nevertheless, the case was a curious one, and a lesson for all aspiring app makers to heed copyright when making their apps.

Source: Technollama

06 April, 2016

A Gleeful End - TV Show 'Glee' Infringes Comedy Venue's Trademark

Whether you are old or young you cannot have escaped the phenomenon that was the TV show Glee, which reached its peak popularity some time just before the turn of the first decade in 2000. The show was a teen drama, encompassing musical elements on top of the usual teen drama fare (very much in the spirit of glee clubs in the days of yore). Even with its upbeat style, the show, or rather its name, has not existed in pure glee, but has faced a prolonged challenge in the UK over its name. With that said, would the show have its last song as "Glee", or were they able to defend their moniker?

The recent decision of Comic Enterprises Ltd v Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation dealt with a series of comedy clubs in the UK called The Glee Club, existing in Cardiff and Birmingham, among other cities. The owners of the clubs, Comic Enterprises, registered the logos of the clubs as UK trademarks in 2001. The marks incorporated the club's name in a stylized fashion, including a spotlight in the background of the name with each constituent part of it being roughly of equal size. The TV show "Glee" (focussing on the antics of a alee club at a fictional US high school) ran between the years of 2009 and 2015, garnering huge success both in and off the TV format, prompting Comic Enterprises to take them to court for trademark infringement and passing off after the clubs' owner noticed the similarities between the two names.

What the Court of Appeal had to address was whether Fox infringed the registered trade mark under sections 10(2) and 10(3) of the Trade Marks Act 1994, and whether they were guilty of passing off.

Under both sections 10(2) and 10(3), infringement is assessed on the basis of six factors: "(i) there must be use of a sign by a third party within the relevant territory; (ii) the use must be in the course of trade; (iii) it must be without the consent of the proprietor; (iv) it must be of a sign which is identical with or similar to the trade mark; (v) it must be in relation to goods or services which are identical with or similar to those for which the trade mark is registered; and (vi) it must give rise to a likelihood of confusion". The first four factors were not disputed, as the show was indeed shown in the relevant territory (the UK); the mark was used in the course of trade (a commercial TV show); there was no consent over its use by Comic Enterprises; and the mark was identical with or similar to the registered mark (the Glee Club/Glee).

No room for song and dance after Lord Justice Kitchin's judgment
The final two factors look at whether the use of the mark was for similar or identical goods or services (i.e. is a club the same as a TV show in terms of use), and whether, as a result, there would be a likelihood of confusion between the goods and services. This is a matter of assessing, among other factors, "...their nature, their intended purpose and their method of use and whether they are in competition with each other or are complementary". Equally, the two marks have to be compared through the perspective of the average consumer. Without similarity there cannot be infringement, so this is very important.

A big point of contention in the assessment of similarity was the trial judge's 'wrong way round' determination through evidence, or in other words, that the registered mark evoked a connection with the TV show, rather than the other way around (the more typical test for similarity). After discussing all submitted evidence anew, Lord Justice Kitchin determined that the evidence did indeed create a likelihood of confusion, however acknowledging some of it having little probative value. This is an interesting point, as the case clearly accepts 'wrong way round' evidence, and as such this could be used in other cases to prove a likelihood of confusion.

Finally, Lord Justice Kitchin turned to the matter of infringement, due to substantial errors made by the trial judge in their initial judgment. He ultimately found that there was indeed infringement under section 10. The two marks were deemed to be similar, even with the fact that the word "glee" was a common word.  Additionally, the goods and services offered by the two parties were sufficiently similar, although the similarity of a TV show and a club were challenged by the defendant. Lord Justice Kitchin specifically mentioned the context of the marks' use, and even though he accepted that the connection between the two was loose on the face of it, there still was a possible connection, especially with a world tour planned for the TV show incorporating a live element to the mark's use. He ultimately found a likelihood of confusion between the two marks. A potential changing of economic behavior by consumers based on this confusion would also cause detriment to the claimant, especially in the light of a need to change their marketing to further distinguish themselves from the TV show.

He also agreed with the trial judge and dismissed the passing off claim made by the claimant, as a likelihood of confusion is to be distinguished from misrepresentation, which is crucial for a passing off claim. As the defendant's use of the name was not to pretend the TV show was associated with the comedy clubs (although the mark was confusingly similar) and thus was not a misrepresentation.

The case is an interesting one, and shows that 'wrong way round' confusion is a legitimate argument, even though one could consider it unorthodox under the letter of the law. Nevertheless, this writer agreed with Lord Justice Kitchin, and wonders whether the case will see a further appeal, especially because of an outstanding issue on the compatibility of section 41 under EU law (specifically Directive 2008/95/EC). This remains to be seen, but it seems that the show will have to be rebranded in the UK, even after its end some time ago.

Source: IPKat