EU Advocate General Declares That Hotels Don't Need To Pay Copyright License To Have In-Room Television
from the oh-ok dept
We’ve seen all manner of silly claims by copyright licensing groups as to what requires what kind of license in every kind of circumstance. These licensing groups have gone after children’s charities. A UK collection society had the strategy of calling up local businesses and demanding payments should they hear music playing in the background. The Author’s Guild once claimed that reading a book out loud constituted the need for a separate license, while ASCAP asserted with a straight face that the ring of a mobile phone was a public performance. This panoply of idiocy might be funny, except for the very real harm done through this kind of harassment.
Even the good stories in this vein weigh heavily in that they are necessary at all. For instance, the advocate general for the EU’s Court of Justice recently wrote an opinion advising that hotels didn’t need a copyright license just to have televisions within guest rooms. It’s a good ruling, but conjures the frustrating question as to why it was needed in the first place. The answer, of course, is because a collection group was attempting to collect from hotels for just that reason.
On Monday, Court of Justice of the European Union advocate general Maciej Szpunar published his opinion on a case brought by the Verwertungsgesellschaft Rundfunk, a royalty collecting and copyright management company comparable to the BPI in the UK or MPAA in the US. The collecting company had asked a local court to force a hotel to pay extra licensing fees because guests were watching TV in their rooms. Vienna’s Commercial Court, in its turn, sought guidance from the CJEU on how EU copyright law should be interpreted in this case.
At issue in this case was an EU directive on rental and lending rights, which affords broadcasters the right to allow or not allow the rebroadcasting of their content to the public. Specifically, the law states that this right applies only when an entrance fee to view such content is levied by the rebroadcaster. What the collection society argued was that hotels were levying such a fee, because it included televisions in rooms for which they were charging guests. That isn’t remotely how the law was supposed to be applied.
But Verwertungsgesellschaft Rundfunk made the argument anyway, because facts and truth have no place in the realm of a collection society, where the only goal is to seek as much rent as possible in every circumstance, while providing as little value as possible. Again, it’s a good opinion, but it’s not a ruling in the case. That ruling will be taken up by the other justices on the court and they will take Szpunar’s opinion on the matter into account. The general feeling appears to be that the court will side with Szpunar’s opinion, which is also good.
But all I can think about is why is this necessary to begin with?