Articles

European Court of Justice clarifies the scope of technological prevention measures

European Court of Justice clarifies the scope of technological prevention measures

European Court of Justice clarifies the scope of technological prevention measures

15.07.2014

On 23 January 2014, the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) issued a judgment in response to a request from the Tribunale di Milano (“Milan Court of First Instance”) for a preliminary ruling on two questions regarding the scope of technological protection measures as articulated in Article 6 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament (the “Copyright Directive”). 

The ECJ maintained that Article 6 of the Copyright Directive legally protects rightholders from establishing technological mechanisms to prevent unauthorized use, but ruled that courts should consider whether alternative technology could have protected against unauthorized use while also allowing the use of legitimate multimedia produced by other manufacturers.

The case opposed Nintendo to PC Box. Nintendo manufactures and sells portable DS-game consoles and fixed Nintendo Wii-consoles. Nintendo also installs

“recognition systems” and “key codes” to prevent the use of unauthorized copies of Nintendo videogames. These “technical protection measures” interact to identify copies and restrict unauthorized use, i.e., videogames and multimedia content without a key code cannot be used on either the portable or the fixed Nintendo Wii-consoles.

PC Box sells Nintendo game consoles and additional software called “homebrews” specifically designed to avoid Nintendo’s key codes and recognition systems. This
software is made by independent producers and can deactivate the technical protection measures (key codes and recognition systems) that Nintendo installed to prevent illegal use of videogames. Nintendo sued PC Box and 9Net before an Italian court, arguing that the principle purpose of the PC Box equipment was to circumvent Nintendo’s protection measures. However, PC Box opined that the Nintendo protection measures prevent the full use of the consoles by restricting the device to read only Nintendo videogames.

The Copyright Directive emphasizes the need for Member States to legally protect technological measures implemented to effectively prevent unauthorized use, but it does not clearly establish how broad the technological measures may extend. Nintendo’s technological protection measures prevent the use of not only unauthorized copies of Nintendo videogames but also prevent legal videogames by other manufacturers. Thus, Nintendo’s key codes and recognition systems obstruct the use of illegal copies of games, and make it impossible to use videogames of other producers on the Nintendo devices.

The ECJ ruled that protective measures that require interaction between the videogame and the console fall under the concept of “effective technological measures” if their objective is to prevent or limit unauthorized use of protected material. However, a producer of videogame consoles should only invoke the digital protection of its videogames if the protection system is aimed to make the use of illegal copies of videogames impossible or harder. Protection should not prevent the use of non-infringing software (games) from other legitimate producers if an alternative technology accomplishes the same protection but does not restrict the use of non-infringing software at a comparable cost.

Here, the court should look at whether alternative technological measures could have protected Nintendo’s rights without restricting the use of legal third-party activity. The court should look at evidence of actual use and how often PC Box’s devices are used to allow unauthorized copies of Nintendo games, compared to how often PC Box’s devices are used for legal purposes that do not infringe Nintendo copyrights.

The decision maintains the required legal protection for Nintendo’s technological measures to prevent unauthorized use, but it does not condemn PC Box, on the condition that PC Box can prove that the use of its devices was lawful. National courts must still decide whether other measures causing less interference while still providing adequate protection are available, including a consideration of the different costs of these measures, as well as the purpose of the device used by PC Box whether the PC Box device is used primarily to play legal non-Nintendo games or, more often, to play illegal unauthorized copies of Nintendo games.

The case (C-355/12) can be found on http://www.curia.europa.eu

 

Click here to see a printable version of this article

All rights reserved. Care has been taken to ensure that the content of this e-bulletin is as accurate as possible. However the accuracy and completeness of the information in this e-bulletin, largely based upon third party sources, cannot be guaranteed. The materials contained in this e-bulletin have been prepared and provided by Stibbe for information purposes only. They do not constitute legal or other professional advice and readers should not act upon the information contained in this e-bulletin without consulting legal counsel. Consultation of this e-bulletin will not create an attorney-client relationship between Stibbe and the reader. The e-bulletin may be used only for personal use and all other uses are prohibited.

Team

Related news

11.10.2018 NL law
Stibbe hosts NGB Extra Seminar about product development and counsel’s role at the interface of new technology and law

Seminar - On 11 October 2018, Stibbe will host the NGB (Dutch Association of Corporate Lawyers) Extra Seminar.  IT/IP lawyers Judica Krikke, Jasper Klopper, Marc Spuijbroek and Frederiek Fernhout will discuss the practical aspects of the development of innovative new products. 

Read more

10.10.2018 NL law
Ongevraagd advies Raad van State: normering van geautomatiseerde overheidsbesluitvorming

Short Reads - Op 31 augustus 2018 heeft de Afdeling advisering van de Raad van State (hierna: "Afdeling advisering") een 'Ongevraagd advies over de effecten van de digitalisering voor de rechtsstatelijke verhoudingen' betreffende de positie en de bescherming van de burger tegen een "iOverheid" uitgebracht. Het gebeurt niet vaak dat de Afdeling advisering zo een ongevraagd advies uitbrengt. Dit onderstreept het belang van de voortdurend in ontwikkeling zijnde technologie en digitalisering in relatie tot de verhouding tussen de overheid en de maatschappij.

Read more

12.10.2018 NL law
Tim Berners-Lee's Solid proposal: the future of data traffic?

Short Reads - The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) aims to strengthen the rights of individuals in respect of their personal data. Although this aim has been achieved to a certain extent, the fundamental framework of the way personal data is processed remains unchanged. Companies are still able to use large amounts of user data, in many cases without even obtaining their consent. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, has announced his plans for a decentralised web, in which users remain in control of their personal data.

Read more

09.10.2018 BE law
Stibbe continues to support law incubator project IusStart in new academic year

Inside Stibbe - Stibbe, in cooperation with IusStart (KU Leuven), has supported promising start-ups for many years now by drawing their attention to potential legal obstacles in the field of general commercial law and IP and IT law. This new academic year is no exception: our TMT department continues to assist final-year law students and start-ups by being their mentors.

Read more

Our website uses cookies: third party analytics cookies to best adapt our website to your needs & cookies to enable social media functionalities. For more information on the use of cookies, please check our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Please note that you can change your cookie opt-ins at any time via your browser settings.

Privacy – en cookieverklaring