The Forgotten Right of Independent Creation – Judgments from the Finnish and Swedish Supreme Courts

(Note: The picture is unrelated to the Finnish case)

Setting the Stage

Copyright plays a very important role in the creative industries. But what also plays a very important role for the mere existence of those industries is inspiration. Virtually every musician or artist is inspired by other musicians or artists, every painter is inspired by other painters, that is the way the world works and denying this would be quite naïve to say the least. This short introduction brings us to the topic of this post. If you create an entirely new and independent work, you will not have to seek any permission from the copyright owner to reproduce or distribute your own work. This is the rule in many jurisdictions in the world. But if you use another’s work to make an adaptation, you would need permission. But where to draw the line?

Judgment of the Swedish Supreme Court

On 21 February 2017, the Supreme Court of Sweden had handed down a judgment (T 1963-15) in a quite interesting case. At the heart of dispute was a photograph and a painting which was alleged to infringe Swedish copyright law. The photographer had followed a person who was a suspect in the murder of the Swedish Prime Minister Olof Plame. The photographer managed to get a photo of the suspect, which was then used in the mass media. Another individual then used the photograph as a model and painted a work which he named “Swedish scapegoats”. The painter displayed the painting on the Museum of Modern Arts in Stockholm, published a picture of the painting on his website and sold posters of the painting. The question at dispute was whether the painter had infringed the copyright attached to the photograph.

The question was whether the work was an independent work or an adaptation, which is dependent upon the original work. The Supreme Court briefly compared the two works and did consider that one could, at a first glance, come to a conclusion that the painting would be an adaptation of the photograph. However, there were differences related inter alia to the technique used.

Additionally, the evaluation had to be made based an overall consideration. The Supreme Court held that the painting was indeed to be considered to be  an independent work. The Supreme Court considered the painting to have a different purpose compared to the photograph. The purpose of the painting was not to portray the individual, which was of course the main purpose of the photograph. Rather, the painting was created to critique the general need to have scapegoats in mass media and was also considered to be a commentary of the current times and society. The person depicted was considered a phenomena in the painting and a bearer of the symbolic message expressed by the painting.

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EU Commission published “notice to stakeholders” on post-Brexit copyright law

Guest post by William Wortley*

With one year to go until the United Kingdom exits the European Union, the Commission has released a “notice to stakeholders” highlighting that, in the absence of transitional measures, the EU’s copyright acquis will not apply to the UK post-Brexit. While copyright law has not been fully harmonised across the EU, cliff-edge issues such as those contained in the notice have major potential ramifications for both the EU and the UK.

The notice acknowledges that, as signatories to the main international copyright treaties, namely TRIPS and the WIPO Copyright treaties, the UK and EU’s relationship in this field will be governed by these treaties post-Brexit, including the application of the principles of national treatment and most-favoured nation status.

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Decompiling the rules on trade secrets, software and reverse engineering – the sequel

In my previous post from January last year I discussed reverse engineering in light of the Trade Secrets Directive (“TSD”) as well as the Software Directive (“SD”). I strongly recommend you to review my previous post (here) before reading this piece, since said post lays the foundations for the arguments and considerations discussed below.

The focus of this article will lie on implementation of the provision on reverse engineering in Finnish legislation. A very interesting aspect here is the relationship between trade secrets and copyright, which is why I have chosen to discuss in particular in this post.

Background

As a consequence of the adoption of the TSD, the Finnish Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (“MEAE”) assigned a working group to prepare the national implementation of the TSD in Finland. On 18 October 2017, the working group published its recommendation (“Finnish Proposal”) in which it proposes reform and consolidation of the Finnish legislation concerning the protection and civil enforcement of trade secrets. The aim is to enhance the protection of trade secrets by providing effective legal remedies against trade secret misappropriation. In the Finnish Proposal, it is suggested that the TSD would be mainly implemented by a wholly new Trade Secrets Act.

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TVCatchup II – Retransmission by cable not “exempted” in the InfoSoc Directive

cable

Last November, I reported on the GS Media case (C-160/15), which certainly gave rise to some debate. It appears that the CJEU is quite actively handing down judgments in the area of copyright. This is perhaps not too surprising, since the member states still have quite different national legislations and the harmonization from the EU is by no means exhaustive. Additionally, and more importantly, especially national copyright laws lag behind the rapid technical development, which is why many questions of interpretation may arise in national courts.

Only a few days ago, on 1 March, the CJEU handed down its judgment (C-275/15) in the case TVCatchup II. The national law in the UK included a provision, which roughly provided that copyright is not infringed in the case of immediate retransmission by cable. The relevant question from the UK court was “whether Article 9 of Directive 2001/29, and specifically the concept of ‘access to cable of broadcasting services’, must be interpreted as covering and permitting national legislation which provides that copyright is not infringed in the case of the immediate retransmission by cable, including, where relevant, via the internet, in the area of initial broadcast, of works broadcast on television channels subject to public service obligations.”

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The GS Media decision and ‘communication to the public’?

The CJEU quite recently handed down its decision in the GS Media case (C-160/15, available here). In said case, the CJEU revisits the notion of ‘communication to the public’ of the InfoSoc directive. The case concerns a situation where the material has originally been placed on the internet without the consent of the copyright owner. If the content has been made freely available on another website with the consent of a copyright holder, there would usually be no ‘communication to the public’ (see e.g., the Svensson decision, C-466/12 available here).

In GS Media, the CJEU distinguished between i. non-commercial use and ii. use for profit. If the hyperlink is placed on a website that operates for profit, the person who posts the hyperlink has a duty to check if the content was originally placed on the web without the consent of the copyright owner. Further, if the website operates for profit, it is presumed that the posting is made with full knowledge of the protected nature of the relevant work and the potential lack of consent of the copyright owner. This presumption can however be rebutted.

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