Short Reads

General Court dismisses Canal+ appeal against pay-TV commitment decision

General Court dismisses Canal+ appeal against pay-TV commitment decis

General Court dismisses Canal+ appeal against pay-TV commitment decision

04.01.2019 NL law

The General Court recently dismissed the appeal brought by Canal+ against the decision of the European Commission making the commitments of Paramount legally binding. In 2015, the Commission sent a Statement of Objections alleging that certain geo-blocking clauses in licensing agreements between film studios and pay-TV broadcasters had the object of restricting cross-border competition.

The Commission accepted commitments offered by Paramount not to enforce or implement these clauses to address the Commission's concerns. Canal+ appealed the Commission's decision making the commitments binding, arguing that cultural diversity and intellectual property rights justified the restriction of cross-border competition. The Court fully dismissed the appeal of Canal+ and upheld the commitment decision.

In 2014, the Commission started investigating geo-blocking clauses in licensing agreements between the largest European pay-TV broadcasters and six major film studios, including Paramount. In July 2015, the Commission sent a Statement of Objections alleging that these clauses, which prohibited broadcasters from showing its pay-TV content to EEA consumers outside the exclusive territory, were deemed to have the object of restricting cross-border competition. On 15 April 2016, Paramount proposed that it would not enforce or implement the relevant clauses in order to address the Commission's concerns about their anti-competitive object that is contrary to Article 101 (1) TFEU [see our May 2016 Newsletter].

After receiving comments on the commitments of Paramount from interested parties, including Canal+, the Commission decided to make the commitments legally binding in July 2016. Canal+, being the exclusive Paramount licensee in France and an interested third party in the case, challenged the commitment decision.

On appeal, Canal+ argued that the intellectual property rights justified the absolute territorial exclusivity conferred by the relevant clauses. The General Court held that, while intellectual property rights are intended to protect these rights, the relevant clauses imposed restrictions going beyond what was necessary. The General Court also rejected the argument of Canal+ that the relevant clauses promoted cultural production and diversity. According to the General Court, this would involve an assessment under Article 101 (3) TFEU, which fell outside the scope of a commitment decision. Lastly, Canal+ claimed that the commitments violated the interests and procedural rights of third parties. The General Court found that the commitments in no way prevented a national court from ruling on the validity of the relevant clauses following an action brought before that court.

The General Court therefore fully dismissed the appeal of Canal+ and upheld the commitment decision. On 20 December 2018, the Commission also published the commitments offered by Sky and the remaining film studios under investigation. The proposed commitments are similar to those offered by Paramount.

 

 

This article was published in the Competition Law Newsletter of January 2019. Other articles in this newsletter:

Team

Related news

28.07.2022 NL law
Purely commercial interest also a legitimate interest? Council of State leaves the question unanswered.

Short Reads - On 27 July 2022, the Council of State confirmed that the Dutch Data Protection Authority wrongly imposed a €575,000 fine on VoetbalTV. But the Council did not answer the question whether the AP rightly or wrongly believes that a purely commercial interest cannot be a legitimate interest within the meaning of the General Data Protection Regulation.

Read more

20.09.2022 EU law
Launch of Metaverse blog series

Articles - Stibbe launches a new blog series focusing on the legal challenges of the Metaverse. In our upcoming blog posts, we will discuss the legal challenges of NFTs, crypto-assets, Metaverse platforms, crypto exchanges, DAO, and many more.

Read more

28.07.2022 NL law
Zuiver commercieel belang ook gerechtvaardigd belang: Raad van State laat zich er niet over uit

Short Reads - Op 27 juli 2022 heeft de Raad van State bevestigd dat de Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens onterecht een boete van € 575.000 aan VoetbalTV heeft opgelegd. De hoop bestond dat de Afdeling antwoord zou geven op de vraag of de AP terecht of onterecht meent dat een zuiver commercieel belang géén gerechtvaardigd belang kan zijn in de zin van de Algemene Verordening Gegevensbescherming. Het antwoord op deze vraag blijft echter uit.  

Read more

03.08.2022 EU law
Gotta catch ‘em all? Upward referral of ‘killer acquisitions’ upheld

Short Reads - Companies involved in intended or completed M&A transactions falling below EU and national merger notification thresholds should beware that their deals may still catch the European Commission’s eye. The General Court has upheld the Commission’s decision to accept a national referral request regarding Illumina’s acquisition of Grail: a transaction not triggering any of the notification thresholds within the EEA.

Read more