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CJEU Case C-516/17/ Opinion

Spiegel Online GmbH v Volker Beck

Deciding Body type:
Court of Justice of the European Union
Deciding Body:
Advocate General
Decision date:

Key facts of the case:

Request for a preliminary ruling from the Bundesgerichtshof.

Reference for a preliminary ruling — Copyright and related rights — Directive 2001/29/EC — Information Society — Harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights — Article 5(3) — Exceptions and limitations — Scope — Article 5(3)(c) and (d) — Reporting of current events — Quotations — Use of hyperlinks — Lawfully making available to the public — Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Article 11 — Freedom of expression and of information.

Outcome of the case:

In the light of all the foregoing considerations, I propose that the Court’s answers to the questions referred for a preliminary ruling by the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court Of Justice, Germany) should be as follows:

  1. The Member States have an obligation to ensure the protection in their domestic law of the exclusive rights set out in Articles 2 to 4 of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, since those rights may be restricted only for the purposes of applying the exceptions and limitations exhaustively provided for in Article 5 of that directive. The Member States nonetheless remain free to choose the means they consider appropriate to put in place in order to comply with that obligation.
  2. Article 5(3)(c) of Directive 2001/29 must be interpreted as meaning that the use of a literary work in the context of a current events report does not fall within the scope of the exception provided for in that article where the purpose behind its use makes it necessary to read all or part of that work. 
  3. Article 5(3)(d) of Directive 2001/29 must be interpreted as meaning that the exception for quotations provided for in that provision does not cover situations in which a work, without the authorisation of the author, is made available to the public on a website, in its entirety, in the form of an independently accessible and downloadable file, thus removing the need for the reader to have recourse to the original work.
  4. The freedom of expression and the media, established in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, does not constitute a limitation to, and does not warrant an exception to or an infringement of, the author’s exclusive right to authorise or prohibit the reproduction and communication to the public of his work beyond the limitations and exceptions provided for in Article 5(2) and (3) of Directive 2001/29. That is also the case in the situation where the author of the work in question holds public office and that work discloses his beliefs on matters of public interest, in so far as that work is already available to the public.