European Court of Justice rules on copyright fees

By EDRi · May 7, 2003

A recent verdict from the European Court of Justice implies that all EU
countries should choose the same legislative translation of ‘equitable
remuneration’, a crucial formula in the European Copyright Directive.
Weighing the case of the Dutch copyright collecting society SENA versus the
national broadcasting organisation NOS, the Court explains how the 1992 EU
directive on rental and lending rights should be interpreted. Equitable
remuneration “must be interpreted uniformly in all the Member States and
applied by each Member State; it is for each Member State to determine, in
its own territory, the most appropriate criteria for assuring, within the
limits imposed by Community law and Directive 92/100 in particular,
adherence to that Community concept.”

From 1984 to 1994 the yearly amount the NOS paid the collecting society
varied between EUR 272.000 and EUR 317.000. After the entry into force of
the 1992 Directive, the new collecting society SENA demanded a yearly
amount that was 10 times as high, EUR 3.4 million. Though it is up to the
Dutch High Court to decide what the amount will be, and what specific
criteria should be used to determine it, the European Court clearly sides
with the arguments of the collecting society.

The verdict might cause a lot of head ache for legal officials, since
equitable remuneration has been interpreted very freely in the different EU
member states. The governments of the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal,
Finland and the United Kingdom as well as the European Commission had
pleaded with the Court to ignore the reasoning of SENA’s lawyers,
contending that the 1992 Directive deliberately omitted to lay down a
detailed and universally applicable method for calculating the level of
such remuneration.

Verdict (in all EU languages)!celexplus!prod!CELEXnumdoc&numdoc=62000J0245

Legal opinion on the verdict (in French)