Ber­lin Regio­nal Court sub­mits Ques­ti­on of Noti­fi­ca­ti­on to the ECJ

Ber­lin Regio­nal Court decla­res press publis­hers’ suit against Goog­le Inc. to be jus­ti­fied in part, sub­mits to ECJ the ques­ti­on of whe­ther noti­fi­ca­ti­on requi­re­ment app­lies to ancil­la­ry copy­right for press publis­hers

Press Release
Ber­lin, 2017-05-09

The Ber­lin Regio­nal Court resol­ved today to initia­te a preli­mi­na­ry ruling pro­ce­du­re befo­re the Euro­pean Court of Jus­ti­ce as to whe­ther the noti­fi­ca­ti­on requi­re­ment app­lies to the ancil­la­ry copy­right for press publis­hers, which took effect on 1 August 2013. In the announ­ce­ment of its decisi­on, the Ber­lin court sta­ted expli­ci­tly that it con­si­ders the VG Media press publis­hers’ lawsu­it against Goog­le Inc. to be at least par­ti­al­ly jus­ti­fied. It fur­ther main­tai­ned, howe­ver, that the ques­ti­on of whe­ther – con­tra­ry to the view of the Federal Government – the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on should have been noti­fied of the law befo­re its enact­ment, must still be exami­ned.

On the decisi­on of the Ber­lin Regio­nal Court, Mar­kus Run­de, Mana­ging Direc­tor of VG Media, comments: ‘The Ber­lin Regio­nal Court is to sub­mit only if it views the sub­s­tance of the lawsu­it, in who­le or in part, as jus­ti­fied. Only then does it comes down to the ques­ti­on of noti­fi­ca­ti­on; only in this case is sub­mis­si­on cal­led for. The Federal Government was under no inherent obli­ga­ti­on to noti­fy the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on of the intro­duc­tion of the ancil­la­ry copy­right for press publis­hers, as the ancil­la­ry copy­right does not repre­sent a tech­ni­cal regu­la­ti­on in terms of the app­li­ca­ble direc­ti­ve. Only regu­la­ti­ons which ulti­mate­ly and inten­si­ve­ly restrict the com­men­ce­ment or exe­cu­ti­on of a ser­vice of the infor­ma­ti­on socie­ties are con­si­de­red tech­ni­cal regu­la­ti­ons in terms of the direc­ti­ve. This is not the case whe­re an intel­lec­tu­al pro­per­ty right does not impe­de the ren­de­ring of a ser­vice, but merely leads to an obli­ga­ti­on on the part of the search engi­ne ope­ra­tors to pay com­pen­sa­ti­on for the mone­ta­ry bene­fit obtai­ned. Unli­ke the Ber­lin Regio­nal Court, the Federal Government assu­med, and con­ti­nues to assu­me, that the­re was no noti­fi­ca­ti­on requi­re­ment with regard to the enact­ment of the ancil­la­ry copy­right for press publis­hers, and that the law the­re­fo­re app­lies. VG Media agrees with this under­stan­ding.

Back­ground

The ancil­la­ry copy­right for press publis­hers took effect on 1 August 2013 after pas­sa­ge by the Ger­man Federal Par­lia­ment. It pro­vi­des that search engi­nes and news aggre­ga­tors must remu­ne­ra­te press publis­hers for the use of digi­tal press pro­ducts.

The sub­ject of the lawsu­it befo­re the Ber­lin Regio­nal Court is the enfor­ce­ment of the ancil­la­ry copy­right for press publis­hers against Goog­le Inc. The Arbi­tra­ti­on Board of the Ger­man Patent and Trade­mark Office initi­al­ly deci­ded that the ancil­la­ry copy­right app­lies and that Goog­le and others are cate­go­ri­cal­ly obli­ga­ted to pay. The fur­ther enfor­ce­ment by the court beca­me necessa­ry becau­se Goog­le cate­go­ri­cal­ly refu­ses to reco­gni­se the app­li­ca­bi­li­ty of the law pas­sed by the Ger­man Federal Par­lia­ment or the pay­ment obli­ga­ti­ons which ari­se from the law. Anti­trust ques­ti­ons regar­ding the abu­se of mar­ket power by Goog­le and the lega­li­ty of its for­ced secu­ring of con­sent are being deci­ded on in sepa­ra­te pro­cee­dings befo­re the Ber­lin Court of Appeal and the Euro­pean Com­mis­si­on. The­se issu­es play a sub­or­di­na­te role in the cour­se of this copy­right-rela­ted lawsu­it.

VG Media is the collec­ting socie­ty of the pri­va­te broad­cas­ting com­pa­nies and press publis­hers, and is based in Ber­lin. It repres­ents the copy­rights and ancil­la­ry copy­rights of near­ly all Ger­man and a num­ber of international pri­va­te TV and radio broad­cas­ters, as well as over 200 digi­tal publi­shing offe­rings.

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