Posts Tagged ‘ECJ’

ISPs and filtering

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

While we wait with bated breath for the High Court’s deliberations on Roadshow v iiNet (transcript of hearing here, here and here), it is worth noting that the CJEU (formerly the ECJ) has struck down an injunction against an ISP which required the ISP to monitor all its users’ traffic and filter (block) copyright infringing material.

SABAM, the Belgian authors’ collecting society (counterpart to APRA) obtained an interlocutory injunction against Scarlet, an ISP. SABAM contended that some of Scarlet’s customers were using its services to engage in peer-to-peer file sharing of copyright materials without authorisation. It obtained from the Belgian courts an order that Scarlet implement a system of filtering to ensure that its users were blocked or otherwise made it impossible for them to send or receive in any way, files containing a musical work using peer-to-peer software without the permission of the copyright owners.

It was common ground between the parties that this would require Scarlet to introduce a system for filtering:

–        all electronic communications passing via its services, in particular those involving the use of peer-to-peer software;

–        which applies indiscriminately to all its customers;

–        as a preventive measure;

–        exclusively at its expense; and

–        for an unlimited period,

which is capable of identifying on that provider’s network the movement of electronic files containing a musical, cinematographic or audio-visual work in respect of which the applicant claims to hold intellectual property rights, with a view to blocking the transfer of files the sharing of which infringes copyrigh

It was also common ground between the parties that such a system would require :

–        first, that the ISP (Scarlet) identify, within all of the electronic communications of all its customers, the files relating to peer-to-peer traffic;

–        secondly, that it identify, within that traffic, the files containing works in respect of which holders of intellectual-property rights claim to hold rights;

–        thirdly, that it determine which of those files are being shared unlawfully; and

–        fourthly, that it block file sharing that it considers to be unlawful.

That is, the ISP would have to monitor all the traffic across its network.

While the CJEU recognised that IP, in this case copyright, was a fundamental right. It also recognised that its protection needed to be balanced against the protection of other fundamental interests. It was necessary to strike a fair balance between the rights of copyright owners, ISPs and their customers. This injunction did not do that and so was incompatible with Community law (we would say “invalid”):

47      In the present case, the injunction requiring the installation of the contested filtering system involves monitoring all the electronic communications made through the network of the ISP concerned in the interests of those rightholders. Moreover, that monitoring has no limitation in time, is directed at all future infringements and is intended to protect not only existing works, but also future works that have not yet been created at the time when the system is introduced.

48      Accordingly, such an injunction would result in a serious infringement of the freedom of the ISP concerned to conduct its business since it would require that ISP to install a complicated, costly, permanent computer system at its own expense, which would also be contrary to the conditions laid down in Article 3(1) of Directive 2004/48, which requires that measures to ensure the respect of intellectual-property rights should not be unnecessarily complicated or costly.

49      In those circumstances, it must be held that the injunction to install the contested filtering system is to be regarded as not respecting the requirement that a fair balance be struck between, on the one hand, the protection of the intellectual-property right enjoyed by copyright holders, and, on the other hand, that of the freedom to conduct business enjoyed by operators such as ISPs.

50      Moreover, the effects of that injunction would not be limited to the ISP concerned, as the contested filtering system may also infringe the fundamental rights of that ISP’s customers, namely their right to protection of their personal data and their freedom to receive or impart information, which are rights safeguarded by Articles 8 and 11 of the Charter respectively.

Thus, the filtering injunction did not strike a fair balance between the protection of IP and the rights of ISPs and their customers.

Case C-70/10 Scarlet Extended SA v SABAM, 24 November 2011.

IPKat has the text of the CJEU’s Summary and as they point out, the CJEU’s ruling has some interesting implications for the filtering injunction ordered by Arnold J in Newzbin 2.

Of course, in Australia, we do not labour under a Charter of Rights. Section 116AH(2) of the Copyright Act 1968 does, however, place some limits on a “carriage service provider’s” obligations to monitor:

(2)  Nothing in the conditions is to be taken to require a carriage service provider to monitor its service or to seek facts to indicate infringing activity except to the extent required by a standard technical measure mentioned in condition 2 in table item 1 in the table in subsection (1),

which is a rather more anodyne protection. Also, under the Telecommunications Act, carriers and carriage service providers have prohibitions on disclosing information related to communications (which is not the same thing as a prohibition on monitoring), but there are important exceptions including disclosures authorised by or under law. Cf  e.g. ss 276 and 280.

 

ECJ’s first case on Registered Community Design

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Case C-281/10 PepsiCo v Grupo Promer Mon Graphic

The excellent Class 99 blog has a summary focusing on the concept of “informed user”.

The IPkitties are typically loquacious.

Lid dip: Ray Hind

A different take on originality (to IceTV and its progeny?)

Friday, December 24th, 2010

(Apparently) unlike its Australian counterpart, the High Court in England has reportedly found copyright in newspaper headlines (here and here).

In a variation on the theme, the Court of Appeal has referred a number of questions to the Court of Justice relating to the originality of football fixtures, so may be some definitiveness and uniformity (at least in Europe) will emerge in due course.

Plant breeder’s rights in the EU

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

The European Court of Justice has dismissed Ralf Schräder’s appeal from the rejection of its registration for plant breeder’s rights in plectranthus ornatus.

It would seem after detailed genetic testing, including travel to South Africa, the EU regulatory authorities have determined the variety the subject of the application is not distinct from a common South African plant.

IPKat has a good overview, with links to earlier stages in the dispute, here.

Case C?38/09 P Ralf Schräder v Community Plant Variety Office

EU: patentability of stem cell

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Greenpeace’s attempts to have “stem cell” patents of Oliver Brüstle revoked moves to the European Court of Justice: The Budnesgerichtshof (German Federal Supreme Court) has referred to the ECJ several questions about the patentability of the use of stem cells to treat various neural diseases.

IPKat has details here, summarising the issues as :

The ECJ will now have to rule on the interpretation of “human embryo” in the sense of art. 6 Directive 98/44/EC. Is a stem cell derived from a blastocyst which has lost its ability to develop into a human still an embryo? If so, is a blastocyst a human embryo? If so, is purely therapeutic use of stem cells a “commercial or industrial purpose” in the sense of art. 6?

By way of comparison, section 18(2) of our Act baldly declares:

Human beings, and the biological processes for their generation, are not patentable inventions.

This provision was introduced at a late stage of the legislative process. Deputy Commissioner Herald had to try and work out its meaning in Fertilitescentrum AB and Luminis Pty Ltd’s Application [2004] APO 19 where he considered that:

36. It seems to me that of these three approaches, only the third approach provides a satisfactory interpretation of s.18(2). Accordingly, in my view the correct interpretation of s.18(2) is ascertained by recognising a human being as being in the process of generation (in either of the two ways I refer to in paragraph 31) from the time of the processes that create a fertilised ovum (or other processes that give rise to an equivalent entity) up until the time of birth.
37. The prohibition of `human beings’ in my view is a prohibition of patenting of any entity that might reasonably claim the status of a human being. Clearly a person that has been born is covered by this exclusion. But to the extent that there is a process of generation of a human being that lasts from fertilisation to birth, I consider that a fertilised ovum and all its subsequent manifestations are covered by this exclusion.

36. It seems to me that of these three approaches, only the third approach provides a satisfactory interpretation of s.18(2). Accordingly, in my view the correct interpretation of s.18(2) is ascertained by recognising a human being as being in the process of generation (in either of the two ways I refer to in paragraph 31) from the time of the processes that create a fertilised ovum (or other processes that give rise to an equivalent entity) up until the time of birth.

37. The prohibition of `human beings’ in my view is a prohibition of patenting of any entity that might reasonably claim the status of a human being. Clearly a person that has been born is covered by this exclusion. But to the extent that there is a process of generation of a human being that lasts from fertilisation to birth, I consider that a fertilised ovum and all its subsequent manifestations are covered by this exclusion.

In application of that ruling, the Examiner’s Manual indicates that the Commissioner’s policy with respect to stems cells is that:

it follows that human stem cells and human stem cell lines per se are patentable because these cells are not considered to be human beings or potential human beings within the meaning of s18(2).