Tuesday, 28 May 2013

French Supreme Court on 5(2) BC: national law determines who is the copyright owner

“The law of the country where protection is sought governs all matters relating to the exercise and enjoyment of copyright, including the determination of the rights holder.”

Article 5(2) of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works provides that “The enjoyment and the exercise of these rights shall not be subject to any formality; such enjoyment and such exercise shall be independent of the existence of protection in the country of origin of the work. Consequently, apart from the provisions of this Convention, the extent of protection, as well as the means of redress afforded to the author to protect his rights, shall be governed exclusively by the laws of the country where protection is claimed.”
This treaty rule means that the law of the signatory country where protection is sought has exclusive jurisdiction to determine the legal regime applicable to works of foreign origin. However, article 5(2) does not specify which national law applies when determining who is the copyright owner.
The facts of the present case are the following: a reporter-cameraman was hired in 1978 by the US company ABC News Intercontinental Inc, and was then sent to the French office from 1993, finally being made redundant for economic reasons in 2004. He brought his case before the Labour Law Court, before which he claimed that his employer had infringed on his copyright by exploiting his reports and documentaries without his authorization. With regard to his claims based on copyright, the Court of Appeal of Paris, in a judgement of 15 December 2010, ruled that since article 5(2) of the Berne Convention does not give any indication as to ownership, acquisition and assignment of copyright, it is necessary to apply the French conflict of law rules; therefore in this situation, the law of the country of origin of the work would apply in order to determine who is the copyright owner. The Court of Appeal consequently applied 17 USC § 201 A and B of the US Copyright Code, which provide that in the case of a work made for hire, the employer owns all the rights comprised in the copyright, unless the parties have expressly agreed otherwise.
In its ruling of 10 April 2013, the Cour de Cassation, the French Supreme Court, quashed the Court of Appeal’s judgement and stated that the law of the country where protection is sought governs all matters relating to the exercise and enjoyment of copyright, including the determination of the rights holder. The Supreme Court therefore extends the principle of ‘national treatment’ to the determination of the copyright holder, thus making it easier for copyright infringement victims to seek protection and remedies in France, but maybe excessively dangerous for copyright assignees.

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Monday, 6 May 2013

France: Supreme Court makes music synchronisation safer

The Franco-Belgian movie Podium, released in 2004, tells the story of a Claude François lookalike who prepares for a contest. Claude François, AKA ‘Cloclo’, was a famous French pop singer of the 60s and 70s. In order to use recordings from the 60s and 70s in the movie, the producer of the film, Fidélité, entered into what is referred to as‘synchronisation agreements’ with the producers and owners of the recordings, namely EMI, Sony, Warner and Universal, who were supposedly the assignees of the rights held by the performers.
Had all the performers assigned their rights to the record producers? No! Not all, thought SPEDIDAM, a collecting society that mainly represents side musicians in the music industry. SPEDIDAM therefore brought an infringement action against the movie producer on the grounds of article L.212-3 of the Intellectual Property Code, which provides that “The performer’s written authorisation shall be required for fixation of his performance, its reproduction and communication to the public as well as for any separate use of the sound or images of his performance where both the sounds and images have been fixed”. In turn, within the same proceedings, the movie producer asked for a guarantee from the producers and the broadcasters.
This gave the Supreme Court the opportunity to settle two major issues in French neighbouring rights: (1) a collective management organisation may only take action for the defence of its own members; (2) the collective agreements entered into before the Act of 3 July 1985 granting neighbouring rights to performers, are still in force.
1. A collecting society may only take action for its own members
Claiming that the synchronisation of the film Podium infringed on the performers’ rights, SPEDIDAM brought this case against the movie producer in order to defend the interests of the collective interest of the profession, which is of course legitimate, and also to claim damages not only for the prejudice allegedly suffered by certain of its members, but also by artists that are not its members. Some are foreign, deceased or members of other collecting societies.
SPEDIDAM based its action on its articles of association (which authorise it to take action for performers, whether they are its members or not) in combination with article L.321-1 of the Intellectual Property Code (which provides that the “societies shall be entitled to take legal action to defend the rights for which they are responsible under their articles of association”). Surprisingly, since the beginning of the 90s, many courts, but not all, accepted this argument. Equally surprising, this issue was only brought to the Supreme Court in the present case, after over 20 years of incomprehensible and diverging court rulings.
In the present case, the Court of Appeal of Paris, in its judgement of 20 May 2011, declared that SPEDIDAM may not act in defence of the interests of performers that it does not represent. The Cour de Cassation, the French Supreme Court, in a judgement of 19 February 2013 has upheld this decision, stating that it follows from article L. 321-1 of the Intellectual Property Code, that whatever is provided by its articles of association, a collecting society may only defend the individual rights of a performer that has given the said society the power to take such action.
This solution of course applies to collecting societies that manage the rights of authors and publishers. This puts an end to a French oddity and makes the business of music synchronisation safer…
2. The collective agreements entered into before the creation of neighbouring rights are still in force
In France, performers have been granted neighbouring rights on their performances since the 3 July 1985 Act (now codified in article L.212-3 of the Intellectual Property Code). In 1959, collective agreements had nevertheless been entered into between the national union of performers and the national union of record producers. These agreements provided that the performer who participates in a recording authorises the use of his interpretation in a movie, subject to receiving a fee in addition to the payment received for the recording session. SPEDIDAM claimed that when the 3 July 1985 Act came into force on 1 January 1986, the collective agreements terminated.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal of Paris rejected SPEDIDAM’s arguments, stating that the recordings in question had been made in the framework of the 1959 collective agreements. The Supreme Court upholds this judgement, explaining that the 1959 agreements, which are binding on SPEDIDAM, must be interpreted as granting the producers the right to exploit the recordings for the sound of the motion pictures yet to come, subject to paying an additional fee to the performers. In addition, the Supreme Court notes that when the performers signed the attendance sheets during the recording sessions between 1963 and 1981, they had not made any reservation for the use of their performances.
It will now definitely be easier and safer to synchronise music recorded before 1986.
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Sunday, 5 May 2013

Personal data: no notification needed for a simple software update

French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation, chambre sociale), 23 April 2013, 11-26.099 (published in the bulletin)

Under article 22 of the French personal data Act, automatic processing of personal data must be notified to the French personal data authority CNIL.

In the present case, a youth educator had been dismissed for refusing to enter data concerning minors under protective measures into a software that had been updated. The employee considered that he was not obliged to accept allegedly unlawful orders given by the employer.

The Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence found that the dismissal of the employee was not justified, because when the computer program EVA 3 was upgraded in January 2007 to EVA 4, personal data, which had been originally notified to the CNIL, had to be re-entered into the system by the educators, which meant that they had to be notified a second time to the CNIL beforehand.

The French Supreme Court has annulled the judgement of the Court of Appeal, stating that "only a substantial change in the information that has been previously declared has to be notified to the CNIL". The Court added that the mere updating of a computer program processing personal data does not entail an obligation for the data controller to notify the data-processing a second time.

The Supreme Court therefore annulled the judgement of the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence as it had not verified whether the change of the computer program was a simple update or a change necessitating a new notification to the CNIL.

Read the case: Judgement

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