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The Court of Justice on copyright infringements through file-sharing

Pierantonio Paulon

Pierantonio Paulon

Italian attorney-at-law (avvocato)

According to this new judgement of the Court of Justice of the European Union (October 18th, 2018 – Case C-149/17, Bastei Lübbe GmbH & Co. KG v Michael Strotzer), the owner of an internet connection used for copyright infringements through file-sharing cannot be exonerated from liability simply by naming a family member who might have had access to that connection.

The case

A German publisher, Bastei Lübbe, sued Mr Michael Strotzer before the Landgericht München I (Regional Court, Munich I ), seeking monetary compensation for the damage suffered claiming that an audio book in which it holds the copyright and related rights was shared, for the purpose of downloading, with an unlimited number of users of a peer-to-peer internet exchange through an internet connection owned by Mr Strotzer.

Beside denying having himself infringed copyright and relying on a correspondent case law of the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice, Germany), Mr Strotzer objected that his parents, living in the same household, also had access to that connection without, however, providing further details as to when and how the internet was used by his parents. As acknowledged by the Landgericht München I, from the point of view of German law, such a defence would be sufficient to exclude the owner of the internet connection from liability, having regard to the fundamental right to protection of family life.
The Landgericht München I asked then the Court of Justice to interpret the provisions of EU law on the protection of intellectual property rights, namely Article 3(1) and Article 8(1) and (2) of Directive 2001/29/EC, of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, read in conjunction with Article 3(1) thereof, and Article 3(2) of Directive 2004/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the enforcement of intellectual property.

The decision

The Court of Justice held that the above provisions must be interpreted as precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, under which, as interpreted by the relevant national courts, the owner of an internet connection used for copyright infringements through file-sharing cannot be held liable to pay damages if he can name at least one family member who might have had access to that connection, without providing further details as to when and how the internet was used by that family member.such as that at issue in the main proceedings, under which, as interpreted by the relevant national courts, the owner of an internet connection used for copyright infringements through file-sharing cannot be held liable to pay damages if he can name at least one family member who might have had access to that connection, without providing further details as to when and how the internet was used by that family member.

 

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