Sale of multimedia player is a ‘communication to the public’

CJEU: Temporary acts of reproduction of a copyright protected work cannot be exempted from the right of reproduction.

The sale of a multimedia player which enables films that are available illegally on the internet to be viewed easily and for free on a television screen could constitute an infringement of copyright.

The temporary reproduction on the multimedia player of a copyright-protected work obtained by streaming is not exempt from the right of reproduction.

Background

The ‘filmspeler’ is a multimedia player sold over the internet that acts as a medium between a source of audiovisual data and a television screen.

On that player, a Mr Wullems installed an open source software that enabled files to be played through a user-friendly interface, via structured menus.

In addition, integrated into the player were add-ons whose function were to retrieve desired content from streaming websites.

According to the advertising of the multimedia player, it was possible to watch on a television screen, easily and for free, audiovisual material available on the internet without the consent of the copyright holders.

Stichting Brein, a Netherlands copyright foundation, asked the Rechtbank Midden-Nederland (District Court of Midden-Nederland, Netherlands) to order Mr Wullems to cease selling multimedia players or offers of hyperlinks that illegally give users access to protected works.

Stichting Brein submitted that, by marketing that multimedia player, Mr Wullems had made a ‘communication to the public’ in breach of the Netherlands law on copyright which transposed Directive 2001/29.

The European Court of Justice then held, on a referral from the court in Netherlands, that the sale of a multimedia player constituted a ‘communication to the public’ within the meaning of the directive.

The full text of the judgment for Case C-527/15 can be found here.