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The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that EU member states can extend copyright protection to protect live digital sports broadcasts.
In its ruling, issued today (March 26), the CJEU answered a question referred to it by the Supreme Court of Sweden on whether it can widen the scope of copyright protection to such broadcasts.
The ability to do this is not covered by the EU Directive 2001/29, which deals with “certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society”.
The CJEU said that EU legislation has harmonised copyright and related rights “only in part”.
In response to the referred question, the court said national legislation should not be precluded from including the exclusive right of broadcasting organisations “as acts of communication to the public”.
The CJEU added that this may only be done provided that any extension “does not undermine the protection of copyright”.
The case, C More Entertainment v Sandberg, centres on a dispute between online broadcaster C More Entertainment, which owns the rights to several live broadcasts of hockey matches, and a man called Linus Sandberg.
Sandberg ran a site that provided hyperlinks to C More Entertainment’s live broadcasts. The links enabled users to circumvent a paywall set up by C More Entertainment, which charged €9.70 ($10) to view a live broadcast of a hockey match on its website.
C More Entertainment contacted Sandberg in 2007 requesting that the links be removed, and filed a copyright infringement lawsuit after Sandberg did not comply.
The District Court of Hudiksvall found Sandberg guilty of copyright infringement in 2010, a ruling which Sandberg appealed against.
But in June 2011, the Court of Appeal of Nedre Norrland ruled that: “No part of the commentators’, cameraman’s or picture producers’ work on the broadcasts of the ice hockey matches ... reached the level of copyright protection”.
The court added: “C More Entertainment was not the holder of copyright, but of related rights, which had been infringed.”
C More Entertainment appealed against the decision and it later went to the Supreme Court of Sweden. The Supreme Court opted to stay the proceedings until the CJEU ruled on its query.
The case now returns to the court to make its final decision.
This story was first reported on WIPR.
CJEU; C More Entertainment; television broadcasters; Linus Sandberg; Swedish Supreme Court; copyright; communication to the public