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Europe rules live streaming without permission breaches copyright

The European Court ruled March 7. 2013, that websites transmitting live TV over the Internet without permission from broadcasters breach copyright.

Tony Ballard, a broadcast lawyer and partner at London law firm Harbottle & Lewis, said the ruling was highly significant.

"For years, nobody has known whether the unauthorised retransmission of live TV on the internet infringes copyright. The Court today has decided that it does. Where a service provider goes beyond merely maintaining or improving the quality of reception of the original transmission and retransmits it by a different technical means to the general public, a licence from the broadcaster or other rights holder is required.

"The case was brought by ITV and other UK broadcasters against TVC, which retransmitted their broadcasts to its subscribers. But it is not an isolated case. It is one in an increasingly long line of decisions by which the Court appears to be laying the foundations for a new European legal order in copyright and other forms of intellectual property. 

"On the one hand, it is strengthening authors’ rights, such as by extending the concept of communication to the public, which subsumes the old broadcasting right, to encompass the activities of those who, like TVC, intervene in the distribution of broadcast services. On the other, it is limiting those rights in pursuit of single market principles by outlawing exclusive national licensing, extending the principle of exhaustion of rights to downloads, limiting the amount that copyright proprietors may charge as royalties and balancing owners’ rights against those of users."