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?


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 10:55am

    If IP laws are really about the artists/public then why is it mostly big corporate entities responsible for pushing for them? Where are the giant protests of artists and the public in their favor? Because I've seen lots of public protests against their expansion all the way up to the point where Hillary Clinton had to temporarily change her stance on TPP just to get rid of Bernie Sanders since voters are so unhappy with expanding IP laws.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 10:59am

    Perhaps it is time to look at what these societies are actually doing, which seems to be actively harming the public accessing content.
    Many of these ideas have no place in our current society, and many of these collection societies exist only to make themselves seem needed while interfering.

    The world is a global platform, it is time to stop mucking everything up with 150 collection agencies pushing different things in 150 different places and just clean it all up and trim off the fat. We needed to pay people to go around and light the street lights at night, but we got better tech... lets replace these societies with a simple spreadsheet & actually pay the artists what is collected in their name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Oct 2016 @ 1:07pm

    I pay rent for my apartment. I also own a TV. Clearly I'm violating copyright law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 11:56pm

      Re:

      Don't joke, I'd be willing to bet that would have been their next tactic if this had worked.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2016 @ 3:48am

        Re: Re:

        Never mind the fact that they've been drooling from both sides at the mouth for a mechanism to charge people based on how many eyeballs might have been aimed at the television...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 3:12pm

    It's necessary because we developed a climate and culture of of this sort of behavior that has started to expand at an accelerated rate. And once it wins or loses one avenue of control or tax imposition, it goes looking for other avenues, no matter how small or stupid. The really bad wins just feed it even more.

    I am quite sure these "societies" see what is going on elsewhere and then sit around brainstorming until they can come up with some next ridiculous claim to power and cash prizes. Think outside the box! (Can a fart that reminded people of some melody be considered a public performance? And under which rules can we demand compensation? Is this a sheet music thing or a you stole my song thing? We demand 80% of the cut from your fart.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 3:30pm

    they won't be happy until they have all the money in the world imo.

    It's a real sickness this constant desire for wealth that can never be used.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 5:39pm

      Re:

      No, even that wouldn't be enough, they'd still insist that someone out there owed them more money and like the criminals they were were simply hiding the money from it's 'rightful owners'.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 27 Oct 2016 @ 11:55pm

    "But all I can think about is why is this necessary to begin with?"

    Because, as well established, these people are greedy assholes with no ability to consider anything beyond how to extort as much money as possible - from people who already pay them - with no consideration as to long term consequences.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2016 @ 12:46am

    I'd like to see a collection society spreadsheet that shows how much is collected, how much money goes to big executive salaries, how much to staff, how much to lawyers and how little to the actual artists.
    I'm betting that 75% goes to execs and Lawyers...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Hu-mon, 28 Oct 2016 @ 2:38am

    "Seek as much rent as possible in every circumstance, while providing as little value as possible."

    -Rule of Acquisition 79

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Oct 2016 @ 9:54am

    Not "just to have televisions within guest rooms"

    It's not clear from the article, but the collection society was not complaining about the TVs being there, they were complaining that the hotel was communicating/rebroadcasting to the rooms: "Member States shall provide for broadcasting organisations the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit ... the communication to the public of their broadcasts...".

    So if the TV only used a built-in antenna, or was just there for guests to display stuff from their own computers, this law wouldn't apply. I'm sure the copyright lobby would still complain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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