Enforcement of Copyright Protection After An Online Infringement

Date Added 11.08.15

A case before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has clarified a question about which courts have jurisdiction to hear a case relating to copyright protected works posted online without the consent of the copyright owner. The case is important as it clarifies the right of copyright owners to sue in their home jurisdiction rather than that of the infringer.

The case was brought by an Austrian professional photographer of architecture who sued the organiser of a conference in connection with the use of photographs taken by the claimant on the conference organiser’s website. The website used the .de top-level domain name and was stated not to be targeted at users in Austria. The conference organiser therefore argued that the case should be heard before the German courts.

The ECJ held that:

  1. The fact that because the website was accessible in a particular jurisdiction meant that the courts in that jurisdiction could hear the case although the courts could only rule on damage caused within that jurisdiction.
  2. The casual event giving rise to the unauthorised placement of the photos on the website, namely the decision to place the photos online and the carrying out of the actual placement as a result of that decision, did not take place in Austria therefore the Austrian court could not have jurisdiction as a result of the place where the event took place.
  3. However, the court then looked at where the damage occurred. In this case the photos were protected by Austrian copyright and, as the website was accessible in Austria(even though not directed at the Austrian market), the damage arose, or was likely to arise in Austria.

The case is consistent with a previous case where it was held that the court had jurisdiction by virtue of the fact that the website in question was accessible in that jurisdiction.

Given how easy it now is to obtain copyright protected works from the internet and re-post them without authorisation this case will make enforcement easier for the copyright owner.

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