Tue. Oct 3rd, 2023
The Supreme Court Clarifies Territoriality in Broadcasting Signal Copyright Case

In a recent criminal case, the Supreme Court dealt with the complex issue of territoriality and clarified the conditions under which broadcasting signals from abroad may be protected under the Copyright Act.

The case involved a television company based in Qatar that broadcasted sporting events and produced its own content. The company transmitted broadcasting signals through a fibre cable to its branch in France, and from there, the signals were transmitted to Great Britain and Spain before being received by subscribers on the ground.

According to the Copyright Act, radio and television companies have exclusive rights to their broadcasting signals. However, these rights only apply to broadcasts that take place in Sweden or are transmitted by a company domiciled in Sweden. The act also applies to broadcasts made in a country that is a party to the Rome Convention or made by companies domiciled in such countries.

The Copyright Act also contains a provision for broadcasts communicated to the public via satellite. This provision follows the principle of the “broadcasting country” and states that copyright and neighboring rights will be deemed to take place in the country where the broadcasting company initiates the performance.

In this case, two representatives of a Swedish company were accused of re-broadcasting the television company’s broadcast. The first-instance court found them guilty of copyright infringement, but the second-instance court dismissed the prosecution, stating that the broadcasts did not enjoy protection under the Copyright Act as they were deemed to have been made in Qatar, which was not a party to the Rome Convention.

The Supreme Court confirmed that the Rome Convention applies to broadcasts made by satellite, and all technical steps in the broadcasting chain should be seen as one communication to the public. They found that the broadcast in question was initiated in Qatar and did not enjoy protection under the Copyright Act. Therefore, the two defendants were found not guilty of copyright infringement.

This judgment clarifies how the International Copyright Regulation should be applied in cases involving multiple technical steps in broadcasting. It also highlights the importance of treaties between states in determining copyright protection.