|Following the delivery |
of this new CJEU decision,
Pushkina is carefully
inspecting the parcel
Following the breaking news post published this morning [see also The 1709 Blog here], the handy 36-para decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Case C-201/13 Deckmyn has become available.
Besides the question whether short judgments have become a thing [do you remember those legendary times when CJEU rulings were - to say the least - 200-para long?], the press release itself prompted some questions, including: How might one practically avoid being associated with a a parody of his/her work that conveys a discriminatory message? What is the threshold beyond which a parody is no longer acceptable and according to what standards should this be determined?
This Kat optimistically thought that the judgment would shed some light ...
This case concerned the notion of parody pursuant to Article 5(3)(k) of the InfoSoc Directive. The CJEU had to address the following questions:
1. Is the concept of 'parody' an independent concept in European Union law?
2. If so, must a parody satisfy the following conditions or conform to the following characteristics:
- the display of an original character of its own (originality);
- and such that the parody cannot reasonably be ascribed to the author of the original work;
- be designed to provoke humour or to mock, regardless of whether any criticism thereby expressed applies to the original work or to something or someone else;
- mention the source of the parodied work?
3. Must a work satisfy any other conditions or conform to other characteristics in order to be capable of being labelled as a parody?
There are several interesting bits in this decision:
|There are fashion rules and ...|
1) In search of (in)flexibilities? You bet
The first question was not really problematic: there is consistent CJEU case law [as recent copyright-related examples, see the decisions in ACI Adam, VG Wort ,TV2 Danmark, and Padawan] that suggests that it follows from the need for a uniform application of EU law and the principle of equality that the terms of a provision of EU law which makes no express reference to the law of the Member States [as is the case of Article 5(3)(k) of the InfoSoc Directive] must normally be given an independent and uniform interpretation throughout the EU.
This is what the Court stated in Deckmyn too with regard to the notion of parody.
It is however interesting to note what is said at para 16 after the clarification that such conclusion is not invalidated by the optional nature of the exception mentioned in Article 5(3)(k): "An interpretation according to which Member States that have introduced that exception are free to determine the limits in an unharmonised manner, which may vary from one Member State to another, would be incompatible with the objective of that directive".
|... and InfoSoc-zero tolerance rules|
Does this mean that once Member States have decided to import a certain exception from Article 5 catalogue into their national laws, then they cannot alter the scope of the resulting national exception as they please?
In the past ifluential commentators have held the view that in most cases Article 5 ‘shopping list’ would be composed of categorically worded prototypes rather than precisely circumscribed exceptions, thus leaving the Member States broad margins of discretion at the stage of national implementation.
This is indeed what has happened in practice, but may be (now) wrong [see here].
In its decisions in ACI Adam, TV2 Danmark and, prior to these, Padawan, the CJEU seemed to suggest that, unless where the InfoSoc Directive leaves it to Member States to fine-tune the scope of resulting exceptions and limitations, it is not possible for them to alter the scope of the exceptions and limitations that they have decided to transpose into their national regimes.
Deckmyn is another addition to this (new) course of the CJEU, ie zero tolerance for diverging national approaches.
So: how many WRONG national copyright laws are still out there? This question may prompt those involved in national copyright litigation to push for new references for a preliminary ruling to the CJEU.
|Not here, Don|
2) How can a parody not be original?
The CJEU decided to examine the second and third questions together.
A parody mus be understood according to its "usual meaning in everyday language" [what does this mean? You have been litigating for years over the notion of parody and have now ended up before the CJEU, that tells you that a parody is ... a parody] and has just two essential characteristics: (1) to evoke an existing work while being noticeably different from it, and, (2) to constitute an expression of humour or mockery.
There are no other requirements according to the Court. In particular a parody does not have to be original. But how can a parody be "noticeably different" from the earlier work and "constitute an expression of humour or mockery" if it does not even display a modicum degree of originality? Wouldn't an un-original parody be just a copyright infringement?
Parody as (politically correct) freedom of expression
The final part of the judgment is likely to raise controversy even outside copyright circles, in that freedom of parody as an expression of one's own opinion is not unlimited.
This is also because, as stated in recital 31 in the preamble to the InfoSoc Directive, copyright exceptions seek to achieve a ‘fair balance’ between, in particular, the rights and interests of authors on the one hand, and the rights of users of protected subject-matter on the other.
What does this mean in practice? According to the CJEU (at para 31), it means that one has a "legitimate interest" [a phrase which comes from the world of administrative law: what does it mean copyright-wise, ie a world dominated by relationships between individuals?] "in ensuring that the work protected by copyright is not associated" [how can this be done if not by prohibiting the parody?] with the offensive [according to what standards?] message conveyed by the parody.
This part of the judgment creates more problems than it solves, and leaves them all to the referring court to address.
Besides the fact that standards of morality and taste change over time all the time, isn't one of the main purposes of a parody to be - to say the least - irreverent and use "humour or mockery" to also stand against conformism and what is socially acceptable? Or does the CJEU rather wish the EU to become the perfect set for the next remake of The Stepford Wives?
What do readers think?
Early thoughts on Deckmyn: fun is OK, but only if politically correct Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Wednesday, September 03, 2014 Rating: