EU Court Rules Against Sale of Multimedia Players Set Up to Connect to Pirated Content

IFA Technology Fair Television Screens - Getty - H 2017
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

In a decision that dealt with the sale of multimedia players specially configured to access pirated content, the Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that such devices amount to a "communication to the public" in breach of Netherlands' copyright law.

The ruling from the EU court is a victory for copyright holders concerned about the rise of tech devices enabling the viewing of copyright infringing material on television screens. The decision also had the EU court figuring out how to square its copyright principles with conduct like pre-installing add-on features that retrieved content through hyperlinks to streaming sites.

The Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN brought the case targeting Jack Wullems' online sales of a multimedia player called filmspeler. According to a district court, where the case first arose, a fairly large number of people purchased this multimedia player.

Ultimately, the EU court holds that not only do the sales constitute a "communication to the public," an important threshold, but also that reproduction rights may have been breached. Most important, it's emphasized that even temporary acts of reproduction are not exempted.

According to the decision, "It must also be held that, as a rule, temporary acts of reproduction, on a multimedia player such as that at issue in the main proceedings, of copyright-protected works obtained from streaming websites belonging to third parties offering those works without the consent of the copyright holders are such as to adversely affect the normal exploitation of those works and causes unreasonable prejudice to the legitimate interests of the right holder, because, as the Advocate General observed in points 78 and 79 of his opinion, that practice would usually result in a diminution of lawful transactions relating to the protected works, which would cause unreasonable prejudice to copyright holders."

Here's the full judgment.