Copyright and Copies in the Cloud

The Court of Justice of the European Union has given its view on a case involving the copying of television programmes in the cloud

 In Case C-265/16 VCAST Limited v RTI SpA, the CJEU has ruled that the making available of copies of television programmes saved in the cloud must be authorised by the holder of the copyright or related rights. The remote video recording service available to users was deemed to constitute a retransmission of the programmes concerned.

Background

VCAST is a company incorporated under UK law which makes available to its customers via the Internet a remote video recording system for terrestrial programmes of Italian television organisations, among which are those of RTI (Reti Televisive Italiane).

The service operates by the customer selecting a programme and a time slot. The system operated by VCAST then picks up the television signal using its own antennas and records the time slot for the selected programme in the cloud data storage space indicated by the user, thereby making the copy of the programmes broadcast available to the customer via the Internet.

VCAST sought a declaration from the Tribunale ordinario di Torino (District Court, Turin, Italy) of the lawfulness of its activities. It invoked the private copying exception, according to which the authorisation of the copyright owner or holder of related rights is not necessary in respect of reproductions on any medium made by a natural person for private use and for ends that are neither directly nor indirectly commercial, on condition that the rightholders receive fair compensation in accordance with Article 5(2)(b) of Directive 2001/29/EC(the Copyright Directive).

Turin District Court, following an application for interim measures submitted by RTI, provisionally prohibited VCAST from pursuing its activity. It decided to submit questions to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling asking, in essence, whether VCAST’s service, provided without the consent of the copyright owner or holder of related rights, is compatible with the Copyright Directive.

Judgment

The CJEU has found that the service provided by VCAST has a dual functionality, consisting in ensuring both the reproduction and the making available of protected works.

To the extent that the service offered by VCAST consists in the making available of protected works, it falls within communication to the public. In that regard, the Court recalls that, according to the Copyright Directive, any communication to the public, including the making available of a protected work or subject-matter, requires the rightholder’s consent, given that the right of communication of works to the public should be understood, in a broad sense, as covering any transmission or retransmission of a work to the public by wire or wireless means, including broadcasting. The Court takes the view that the original transmission made by the broadcasting organisation, on the one hand, and that made by VCAST, on the other, are made under specific technical conditions, using a different means of transmission for the protected works, and each is intended for its public.

The Court concludes that the (re)transmission made by VCAST constitutes a communication to a different public from that of the original transmission and must therefore receive the consent of the copyright owner or holder of related rights. Accordingly, such a remote recording service cannot fall within the private copying exception. 

Published: 2017-11-29T10:00:00

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