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Thursday, 27 July 2017

BREAKING: BGH asks CJEU what a 'quotation' is: only unaltered reproductions or also something else?

Miami to Ibiza?
Better: Karlsruhe ...
Via Katfriend Mathias Schindler (Office of MEP Julia Reda) comes the news that today Germany's Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof - BGH) has referred a new copyright case to the Court of Justice of the European Union: I ZR 228/15 - Reformistischer Aufbruch.

This is the third copyright reference from the BGH in less than two months: last month, in fact, this court referred the (long-running) Metall auf Metall case, and the Afghanistan Papiere case [both reported here].

According to the relevant press release (and its Google Translate translation), similarly to the two other references mentioned above, also this new case seeks guidance on – among other things – the interplay between copyright protection and the protection of third-party rights and freedoms (including freedom of the press), as well as the proper interpretation of relevant exceptions in the InfoSoc Directive – in this case, news reporting and quotation within, respectively, Article 5(3)(c) and (d) of the InfoSoc Directive.

This new reference has been made in the context of proceedings brought by a German politician who, in 1988, authored a book about “sexual acts of adults with children”. The publisher apparently edited the manuscript without the author's consent and the resulting publication was, according to the author, a distortion of his views.

The original manuscript was found in an archive in 2013, and the author submitted it to several newspapers to demonstrate what he had actually written. Although he did not authorize publication of the manuscript or extracts thereof, he consented to newspapers linking to a statement he published on his own website.

... to Luxembourg
The publisher also released a press report on its own portal to support its view that the original manuscripts had not been distorted. To this end, the publisher included a link that allowed users to download both the original manuscript and the resulting publication. No link to the author’s website was provided.

The author submitted that all this amounted to copyright infringement, and brought proceedings against the publisher, being successful at both first instance and on appeal.

The case eventually reached the BGH, which has now decided to stay the proceedings and make a reference to the CJEU.

Although the press release does not contain the exact questions referred, it appears that the core of the reference, which – as also noted by the BGH – is similar to the Afghanistan Papiere case – concerns the interpretation of the notions of ‘news reporting’ and ‘quotation’ within Article 5(3) of the InfoSoc Directive.

With particular regard to ‘quotation’, the core issue seems to be – by reading the press release – whether this exception requires the quotation to be an unaltered reproduction of part of the original, or also allows the reproduction not to be identical.

This question is a very intriguing one, and the answer may be anything but straightforward. There is no need to say that the resulting outcome will have a significant impact on the scope of the EU quotation exception and - with it - national quotation exceptions.

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