Gleiss Lutz obtains landmark decision on European copyright

Gleiss Lutz has obtained a landmark judgment for GEMA (German Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Production Rights) before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. The European Court of Justice ruled that, in future, artists are to receive compensation where freelancers or small businesses reproduce music or other copyrighted works in their business premises to enhance their appeal to customers. The decision specifically relates to a rehabilitation centre in Leverkusen that installed a number of television sets in waiting and therapy rooms for patients’ entertainment without paying any royalties to GEMA. The European Court of Justice has now made it clear that such cases typically involve communication to the public, regardless of whether the public is receptive to such communication. Such communication to the public is impermissible without the authorisation of the author and the corresponding payment of royalties.

The decision is of international importance because the proceedings involved the interpretation of the term “communication to the public” in two Directives which are applicable in the entire EU: the Copyright Directive from 2001 and the Rental and Lending Rights Directive from 2006.

With their decision, the Luxembourg judges put an end to years of legal uncertainty for authors, rightholders and collecting societies like GEMA.

GEMA was advised and represented before the European Court of Justice by the following team of Gleiss Lutz lawyers: Dr. Ingo Brinker (partner, Munich), Dr. Christian von Köckritz (counsel, Brussels), Dr. Niels Lutzhöft (Munich) (all antitrust and copyright). GEMA was also represented by its General Counsel, Dr. Tobias Holzmüller.