The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has held that a multimedia player distributed for a fee which enables its users to view on their television screens movies that originate from pirated websites is liable for copyright infringement of the movies viewed through it.
The player in question, 'filmspeler', offers a functionality that retrieves desired content from streaming websites and then plays it on the television screen to which the player is connected. Some of these websites offer pirated movies without the consent of the movies’ copyright owners while other websites offer their content with the permission of the copyright owners.
The CJEU found that the distribution of the player constitutes a “communication to the public” of the copyrighted movies, an activity enumerated in the exclusive rights granted to their copyright owner. Doing so without the consent of the copyright owner constitutes copyright infringement. The court held that the term “communication to the public” should be interpreted broadly, so as to protect copyright owners. In 2016, the CJEU adopted a similar approach when it held that posting a link to copyrighted content stored on another website may in itself be considered copyright infringement.
The CJEU went on to hold that that temporary and incidental copies of the movies, created in the course of the player’s internal operation, constitute “reproduction” of the copyrighted movies. This also is an activity enumerated in the exclusive rights granted to the copyright owner and may not be performed without the consent of the copyright owner. The EU Directive on harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related right provides a special exception permitting temporary and incidental copies, but the CJEU found that the exception does not apply to the player in question, mainly because it does not satisfy the requirement that the sole purpose of the temporary copy is to enable lawful use of the copyrighted work.