Ask me no questions, and I’ll tell you no lies. The CJEU on internet (libel) jurisdiction in Gtflix.

The CJEU held yesterday in Grand Chamber in C-251/20 GtflixTV – for the facts see my initial flag of the case here. I reviewed the Opinion of Hogan AG here. The AG need not have bothered for the Court entirely ignores the Opinion.

The AG had predicted, as had I, that the CJEU would not heed his calls (joining those of plenty of AGs before him) that the Article 7(2) CJEU Bier introduced distinction between Handlungsort and Erfolgort be abandoned or at least curtailed. The CJEU however also dismisses his suggestion that the case at issue, which involves defamation of competitors over the internet, does not engage the Bolagsupplysningen case-law (infringement of personality rights over the internet) but rather Tibor Trans on acts of unfair competition.

I do not see quite clearly in the Grand Chamber’s mention [28] that Gtlix did not request inaccessibility of the information in France: for Gtflix did request retraction.

Instead of qualifying locus damni jurisdiction, the CJEU squarely confirms its faith in the Mosaic consequences of Article 7(2) locus damni jurisdiction. Each court in whose district damage has occurred, will continue to have locus damni jurisdiction even if the claimant requests rectification of the information and the removal of the content placed online in the Handlungsort or centre of interests jurisdiction. Locus damni jurisdiction in my view extends only to the damage occurring in that district (for Article 7(2) determines territorial, not just national jurisdiction), albeit in current, internet related case the CJEU [38] would seem to speak of ‘national’ jurisdiction, linked to accessibility in the Member State as a whole.

Those courts’ locus damni jurisdiction is subject to the sole condition that the harmful content must be accessible or have been accessible in that Member State. Per CJEU Pinckney, an additional direction of activities to that Member State is not required (the recent High Court approach in Mahmudov on which I shall blog shortly, is at odds with that approach nota bene).

Grand Chamber judgments must not only be expected in cases where earlier authority is radically changed or qualified. It can also occur in cases where the CJEU wishes to reconfirm a point earlier made but stubbornly resisted in scholarship and lukewarmly embraced in national court practice.

Geert.

GtFlix. Hogan AG suggests the jurisdictional gateway for economic damage, not defamation, catches malicious falsehood between economic operators.

As I noted when I signalled the reference, the French Supreme Court in C-251/20 GtFlix has not referred the question whether Bolagsupplysningen is good authority for acts of unfair competition between competitors. Rather, it queries whether Bolagsupplysningen means that a claimant who requests both rectification /retraction and damages, has to necessarily turn to courts with full jurisdiction or whether they can continue to turn for the damages part, to all courts with locus damni jurisdiction.

Hogan AG in his Opinion a few weeks ago (more analysis by  Marta Requejo Isidro here) right up to (94) revisits the wisdom of applying Shevill’s Handlungsort/Erfolgort distinction and the possibility of using GtFlix to overturn. I agree that this is not the case to do it. (On the CJEU and overturning its authority, see excellently the departing Bobek AG in C‑205/20).

At 95 he then essentially requalifies and answers the question which the SC had not referred. The action at the French courts is one in dénigrement, which is a form of malicious falsehood which, the AG suggests, does not call into question the Bolagsupplysningen line of cases but rather Tibor Trans and the cases before it.

An action relating to an infringement of unfair competition law may be brought before the courts of any Member State where that act caused or may cause damage within the jurisdiction of the court seised. Where the market affected by the anticompetitive conduct is in the Member State on whose territory the alleged damage is purported to have occurred, that Member State must be regarded as the place where the damage occurred for the purposes of applying Article 7(2) (99).  A final reference at (102) ff is to the applicable law level under (Article 6) Rome II. 

Should the CJEU follow, one of the left-over questions following Bolagsupplysningen will not be answered, yet another issue on falsehoods spread between competitors, will.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.2

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