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Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Not acte clair, but easy as A, B ... see!

Acte Clair, Cat Claire or Claire de Lune?
We have another A and B situation today, but this time it's not Anheuser-Busch and Budvar.  Back in November Mr Justice Floyd gave judgment in Football Dataco Ltd, The Scottish Premier League Limited, The Scottish Football League Limited and PA Sport UK Limited v Sportradar GmbH & and Sportradar AG [2010] EWHC 2911 (Ch), Chancery Division, England and Wales. In this action the claimants ("FDC") exploited certain data relating to English and Scottish football matches. This data, which was compiled in a database known as "Football Live", included goals scored, goal-scorers, penalties, yellow and red cards and substitutions; it was both updated and provided to third parties while matches were actually taking place. The defendants, Sportradar (a German company and its Swiss parent) assembled data relating to live English and Scottish football matches from public sources and called it "Sports Live Data". Their data was stored on webservers in Germany and Austria but could be accessed via links from elsewhere, including the United Kingdom.  FDC sued, alleging infringement of their UK copyright and database right. Sportradar denied liability since, whatever they might be doing, they weren't doing it in the UK; nor were they domiciled in the UK. The courts of England and Wales therefore had no jurisdiction. The German Sportsradar then sued FDC in Germany in July, seeking negative declarations that its activities did not infringe any of FDC's IP rights.

FDC then applied to amend their Particulars of Claim in order to clarify the nature of the acts which they alleged to constitute infringements and also to add some new ones.

Floyd J started by warning that it was important to examine with some care what, if any, claims were made in the original Particulars of Claim. This was because Sportradar argued that, by virtue of its application for declarations of non-infringement, the German Court was first seized of any claim which the English Court was not properly seized of before July. That exercise had to be carried out without the benefit of the amendments for which permission had not yet been granted. Jurisdiction with regard to the German company was governed by the EU's Judgments Regulation and, in the case of the [non-EU] Swiss company, by the Lugano convention.

Could FDC show a "good arguable case" of UK copyright and/or database right infringement in order to establish jurisdiction in the UK? On the basis of the evidence, Floyd J said "no": Sportradar had not done any act of reproduction (in respect of copyright) or extraction (in respect of database rights) in the UK. As for re-utilization in respect of database right, Article 7(2)(b) of the Database Directive stipulated that
Any form of making available to the public all or a substantial part of the contents of a database by the distribution of copies by renting, by on-line or other forms of transmission. This raised a question of law of where the act of "making available" occurred. The issue was closely related if not identical to an issue raised on the amendment application of where "making available" occurred for the purpose of section 20 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. He had to face this issue since, where a question of whether the Court has jurisdiction turns on a pure question of law, that question has to be decided.

Referring by way of analogy to the debate as to where a "broadcast" occurred (was it at the place of transmission or also at the place of receipt?) he pointed to the Satellite Broadcasting and Cable Re-transmission for broadcasts orginating within the EU. Under that directive, a broadcast occurs where the signals are introduced under the control of the person making the broadcast into an uninterrupted chain of communication (the "emission theory"). Said Sportradar, the emission theory should equally apply to the making available right and to re-utilization, since the act which statute deems to be the infringement is a "making available" and the public do not have to actually access the database to infringe. The judge agreed: that right would prevent transmission or re-transmission in a state to which the Directive applies and other restricted acts would prevent further use of the database within the state of reception. He said:
"... the better view is that the act of making available to the public by online transmission is committed and committed only where the transmission takes place. It is true that the placing of data on a server in one state can make the data available to the public of another state but that does not mean that the party who has made the data available has committed the act of making available by transmission in the State of reception. I consider that the better construction of the provisions is that the act only occurs in the state of transmission".
Though the point was not acte clair, Floyd J felt that he could still rule on it and therefore decided not to refer the point to the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), particularly since the issue was not determinative of whether the court had jurisdiction at all. This was because he interpreted the Particulars of Claim as alleging acts of reproduction and extraction by Sportradar's end users in the UK who downloaded the data from the their servers. Although the customers/end users were not party to the proceedings, the pleadings alleged that Sportradar had authorised and/or was jointly liable for, the acts of the end users/consumers. On this basis, the English court had jurisdiction to rule on whether Sportradar had authorised, or was jointly liable for, the acts of reproduction, extraction and re-utilisation of a substantial part of the Football Live database.

Turning then to FDC's application to amend its application, he felt that he could not allow any amendment which raised a new cause of action if it was already within the scope of the German proceedings. He therefore allowed the amendments which gave further particulars of joint tortfeasorship by Sportradar and which pleaded communication to the public by its customers -- but not an amendment alleging making available by Sportradar itself under the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, section 20.

Today the Court of Appeal (Lords Justices Laws, Jacob and Wilson) [2011] EWCA Civ 330, hearing the appeal and cross-appeal, decided to refer the following questions to the ECJ for a preliminary ruling:
"Where a party uploads data from a database protected by sui generis right under Directive 96/9/EC ("the Database Directive") onto that party's webserver located in member state A and in response to requests from a user in another member state B the webserver sends such data to the user's computer so that the data is stored in the memory of that computer and displayed on its screen
(a) is the act of sending the data an act of "extraction" or "re-utilisation" by that party?
(b) does any act of extraction and/or re-utilisation by that party occur
(i) in A only
(ii) in B only; or
(iii) in both A and B?".
In making this reference, and before reviewing the parties' arguments, the Court summarised the position thus, at paragraphs 42 to 45:
"42. In the case of the UK database right, the claimants say that this means making available to the UK public. That they say the defendants do by copying (re-utilizing) Football Live on their Austrian server and transmitting the copied data to those members of the UK public who click on "live scores". "Transmission," they say, in the case of provision of data over the internet or indeed otherwise by wire involves both the acts of hosting the website (Austria and Holland in this case) but also the act of the user in accessing it. It is not transmitted unless and until it is received. Before there can in reality be a transmission there must be a transmittor and a transmittee. This I will call the "transmission theory" or the "communication theory". 
43. The defendants say not so, that acts of "transmission" occur only in the place from which the data emanates. This was called the "emission theory." The Judge thought that the "better view" was that the defendants were right about that though it was not acte clair. 
44. Before us the parties deployed considerable arguments in support of their respective positions. Mr Mellor contended that the argument was so strong in the claimants' favour to be acte clair. After we had heard him we were not satisfied of this. Mr Carr did not dispute that position or that the point was important and could be decisive. He did not, therefore, oppose a reference to the CJEU. 
45. We decided it was not appropriate for us to form our own view about this very important and difficult question".
In consequence of this reference, the part of FDC's action relating to direct liability for sui generis database right infringement must necessarily be stayed -- but the part relating to joint-tortfeasorship by unlawful communication to the public can proceed merrily on its way.

Addendum: in his haste to get this post up-and-running, the Kat left out the bit about infringement of copyright in an original database (in contrast with infringement of the sui generis database right), so Merpel is adding it now. At paragraphs 14 to 18 Jacob LJ killed any suggestion that there was such an infringement on the facts before the court:
"14. I turn first to the copyright claim. The criteria for subsistence of copyright in a database are that "by reason of the selection or arrangement of their contents, it constitutes the author's own intellectual creation". The defendants contend that the data collected by the claimants' agents is not of that sort – it involves no intellectual creation. Therefore, they submit, there is no copyright right at all. Alternatively, they submit, the data alleged to have been copied (namely goals, goalscorers, own goals, penalties, yellow and red cards and substitutions) are matters of pure fact. Such data is merely the contents of the alleged copyright and is precluded from protection by way of copyright by virtue of Art. 3.2. 
15. I accept the latter submission. The Judge was obviously sympathetic to it (and to the attack on copyright subsistence as a whole) for he said:
[49] Paragraph 22 of the particulars of claim alleges that the compilation of Football Live involves "considerable skill, effort and/or intellectual input by experienced personnel to generate, select and/or arrange its contents". There is also an allegation that a substantial part has been used: see paragraph 37. In the light of the law as stated above, those combined allegations must include the allegation that what is taken is a substantial part of the intellectual input of the authors. Those allegations are supported by a statement of truth from each claimant. Mr Cuddigan's argument that the part alleged to have been reproduced by his clients does not amount to an intellectual creation is not supported by any evidence. Whilst the court might have a view based on its own impressions, I do not think that it would be right to place those ahead of what is properly in evidence. In those circumstances, whilst there may ultimately prove to be force in the argument, I think the claimants have a good arguable case on this issue.
16. Unlike the Judge I think the point can be dealt with now. The statement of truth really adds nothing. It may be that some of the information collected for the claimants includes matter which involves intellectual creation. So there may be copyright in Football Live. But what is alleged to have been copied is mere data on any reasonable view. Its recording may sometimes involve some skill (who scored in a goalmouth scramble) but it is not creative skill. 
17. Nor, speaking more technically, do I think it matters that there is no evidence saying that the matter taken does not amount to intellectual creation. For I cannot imagine any credible evidence to the effect that it does. And actually, although the particulars of claim are supported by a statement of truth (so are a sort of evidence) there is no assertion that what was taken amounted to the taking of work involving intellectual creation.

18. It follows that when the proceedings started the court was not seized of a claim in copyright to the necessary standard. From that it follows that the argument we heard about "authorising" an act restricted by copyright (which by s.16(2) of the Act constitutes an infringement) becomes irrelevant. I say no more about it other than I saw considerable force in it.".
Acte clair here
Eclair here
Claire de Lune here

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