Posts Tagged Pinckney

Jurisdiction for libel over the internet. Haaretz v Goldhar at the Canadian SC.

When I reported the first salvos in Goldhar v Haaretz I flagged that the follow-up to the case would provide for good comparative conflicts materials. I have summarised the facts in that original article. The Ontario Court of Appeal in majority dismissed Haaretz’ appeal in 2016, 2016 ONCA 515. In Haaretz.com v. Goldhar, 2018 SCC 28, the Canadian Supreme Court has now held in majority for a stay on forum non conveniens grounds. Both the lead opinion, the supporting opinions and the dissents include interesting arguments on forum non conveniens. Many of these, as Stephen Pitel notes, include analysis of the relevance of obstacles in enforcement proceedings.

If ever I were to get round to compiling that published reader on comparative conflicts, this case would certainly feature.

Have a good start to the working-week (lest it started yesterday in which case: bonne continuation).

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.14.5.

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Jurisdiction for libel over the internet. Ontario’s view in Goldhar v Haaretz.

The exam season is over, otherwise Goldhar v Haaretz would have made a great case for comparative analysis. Instead this can now feed into class materials. This is an interlocutory judgment on the basis of lack of jurisdiction and /or abuse of process. Plaintiff lives in Toronto.  He is a billionaire who owns i.a. Maccabi Tel Aviv. (Chelsea’s first opponent in the Champions League. But that’s obviously an aside). Mr Goldhar visits Israel about five or six times per year. Defendant is Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. which publishes Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily newspaper (market share about 7%).   It also publishes an English language print edition.  Haaretz is published online in both English and Hebrew.

Haaretz published a very critical article on Mr Goldhar in November 2011. The print version was not published in Canada, in either English or Hebrew. However, Haaretz was made available internationally on its website in Israel in both Hebrew and English – the judgment does not say so specifically however I assume this was both on the .co.il site – even if currently Haaretz’ EN site is available via a .com site.

Information provided by the defendants reveals that there were 216 unique visits to the Article in its online form in Canada. Testimony further showed that indeed a number of people in Canada read the article – this was sufficient for Faieta J to hold that a tort was committed in Ontario and thus a presumptive connecting factor exists. Presumably this means that the court (and /or Canadian /Ontario law with which I am not au fait) view the locus delicti commissi (‘a tort was committed’) as Canada – a conclusion not all that obvious to me (I would have assumed Canada is locus damni only). Per precedent, the absence of a substantial publication of the defamatory material in Canada was not found to be enough to rebut the finding of jurisdiction.

Forum non conveniens was dismissed on a variety of grounds, including applicable law being the law of Ontario (again Ontario is identified as the locus delicti commissi: at 48). Plaintiff will have to cover costs for the appearance, in Canada, of defendants’ witnesses. Importantly, plaintiff will also only be able to seek damages for reputational harm suffered within Canada.

I can see this case (and the follow-up in substance) doing the rounds of conflicts classes.

Geert.

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Hejduk: Copyright infringement and jurisdiction. The ECJ entertains much less than its AG.

I have reviewed the AG’s opinion in Hejduk here. The AG’s Opinion was exciting for it cited, even if only in a specific (IP; more specifically copyright) context, the difficulty in identifying locus damni. This, I suggested (realistically optimistic) flagged an obvious concern with the ECJ’s ruling in Bier. However the ECJ in its judgment, issued yesterday,  was not having any of this. It applied relevant precedent (all recalled in my earlier posting), did not at all entertain the AG’s concerns with the locus damni assessment, and held that in the event of an allegation of infringement of copyright and rights related to copyright guaranteed by the Member State of the court seised, that court has jurisdiction, on the basis of the place where the damage occurred, to hear an action for damages in respect of an infringement of those rights resulting from the placing of protected photographs online on a website accessible in its territorial jurisdiction. That court has jurisdiction only to rule on the damage caused in the Member State within which the court is situated.

Plaintiff’s difficulties were of no concern to the ECJ. No surprise perhaps given the Brussels I Regulation’s near-exclusive concern for the position of the defendant.

Geert.

 

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Jurisdiction, intellectual property and the internet. Might CRUZ VILLALÓN AG in Pez Hejduk introduce the end of Bier?

Let me answer the question immediately: that is unlikely. It is however an interesting prospect and, who knows, might be a start. CRUZ VILLALÓN AG’s Opinion in Pez Hejduk, case C-441/13 (at the time of writing available in plenty of languages but not in English), provides an excellent tour d’horizon of the application of the special jurisdictional rule of Article 5(3) [following the recast, Article 7(3)] Brussels I, to cases involving infringements of an intellectual property right.

For trademarks, the most recent case is Coty, Case C-360/12, reviewed by Alberto Bellan here. Pez Hejuk concerns copyright: an intellectual property right for which no formality (such as registration) is required for it validly to exist. Pinckney, Wintersteiger, Football Dataco: the application of Article 5(3) [and the delineation with leges specialis in the IP field] is not exactly crystal clear and the need for distinguishing very high. This resulted in this particular case in the Handelsgericht Wien requesting ECJ back-up on the application in the case of Ms Hejduk, a professional photographer, suing EnergieAgentur for unauthorised use on its .de website of photographs which had only been authorised for one-off use during a conference.

In view of Pinckney et al, the AG splendidly and concisely distinguishes the various strands of case-law and the raison d’etre for their consecutive jurisdictional criteria – please refer to the opinion itself for a summary by me would not do it justice. Encouraged in particular by Portugal and the EC, the AG then further distinguishes current case. As noted by Eleonora Rosati here, the AG emphasises that not only would it be difficult for the defendant having potentially to face actions in multiple Member States, but also the plaintiff would have limited benefits from seeking limited damages in more jurisdictions, and would find it difficult to prove such damage given the accessibility of the site.

Which is why the AG suggests that further distinguishing is needed for what he calls cases involving ‘delocalised damages’ involving IP, leading to the suggestion that in such case, only the judges of the Member State in which the causal event occurred should have jurisdiction on the basis of Article 5(3) (general jurisdiction for the domicile of the defendant not withstanding, obviously: per Article 2 JR). In other words: only the locus delicti commissi would be upheld. Not the locus damni.

Now, no reference is made to the case in the AG’s Opinion, however, surely this amounts to no less than a reversal of Bier /Mines de Potasse d’Alsace, case C-21/76. the ECJ’s extension in Bier, away from the literal meaning of Article 5(3) has, as I often have emphasised, triggered a long series of cases in which the ECJ has had to massage the ripple effect of the locus damni rule. If it were (which of course is not at all certain) to take up the AG’s suggestion here, and drop locus damni, might it not eventually have to concede that in many if not all cases, it is difficult for the defendant having potentially to face actions in multiple Member States, and for the plaintiff to have to prove and seek limited damages in more jurisdictions.

On that basis (that however narrowly distinguished, siding with the AG would mean acknowledging the weakness of the locus damni rule), I find it very likely that the ECJ will not run with it. Whence it might either not distinguish Hejduk from Pinckney, or assimilate it with eDate Advertising, or further distinguish and add an alternative, Hejduk rule, in the event of ‘delocalised damages’.

One to look out for!

Geert.

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Jurisdiction in copyright infringement with the involvement of the internet – The ECJ in Pinckney is satisfied with accessibility

[postscript 4 February 2014: the Cour de Cassation held on 22 January 2014, following the ECJ’s lead.]

I reported earlier on the AG’s Opinion in Pinckney. The ECJ held this morning.  The questions were held admissible (see my fear that the Court might side with the AG’s suggestion of the opposite).

Pro memoria: the case concerns an alleged infringement of a copyright which is protected by the Member State of the court seised (France), that court questioning its jurisdiction to hear an action to establish liability brought by the author (who lives in France) of a work against a company established in another Member State (Austria), which has in the latter State (Austria) reproduced that work on a material support which is subsequently marketed by companies (Crusoe and Elegy) established in a third Member State (the UK) through an internet site which is also accessible in the Member State of the court seised (France).

The Court of Appeal at Toulouse) held that the Tribunal de grande instance de Toulouse lacked jurisdiction on the ground that the defendant is domiciled in Austria and the place where the damage occurred cannot be situated in France, and that there was no need to examine the liability of Mediatech and Crusoe or Elegy in the absence of any allegation of collusion between them and Mediatech. The Cour de Cassation referred to the ECJ.

The ECJ concisely sets out its case-law in intellectual property rights vs personality rights infringements – I will not repeat the exercise here.  It emphasises the (in my view conceptually wrong) link between applicable law and jurisdiction in the case of special jurisdictional rules. Unlike the AG, however, the court does not withhold ‘focus and target’ of the website as a criterion for jurisdiction. ‘(T)he possibility of obtaining a reproduction of the work to which the rights relied on by the defendant pertain from an internet site accessible within the jurisdiction of the court seised‘ (emphasis added) suffices.  However if locus damni is the only jurisdictional ground for that Member State, that court, per the Shevill rule, only has jurisdiction to adjudicate on the damage caused in that Member State.

No doubt the IP community will chew a bit more on the judgment. The patchwork of litigation possibilities in IP infringement cases remains a challenge.

Geert.

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Pinckney: Jääskinen AG suggests ‘focus and target’ as criterion for jurisdiction

I reported  just short of a year ago on the reference in Pinckney, Case C-170/12. The Advocate General opined on 13 June.  Jääskinen AG first of all suggests the questions are inadmissible – let’s hope the ECJ will not agree for this will cut short the remainder of the discussion.

Pinckney, a resident of Toulouse (France), is the alleged author, composer and performer of 12 songs which were recorded on vinyl in the 1970s. The works have been copied in Austria, unto CD by Mediatech, registered in Austria. No permission was requested from Pinckney.  Two UK-registered companies subsequently marketed the CDs from a variety of websites, which were accessible from Toulouse.

The AG distinguishes between two different infringements – both with ample reference to previous case-law:

Firstly, for reproduction rights, he suggests the locus damni is the same as the locus delicti commissi: for there is no third party involved. In the case at issue, this leads to both the UK (were the songs were copied on a host server) and Austria (where the copies were initially made) as having jurisdiction.

Further, for distribution and communication rights, the locus delicti commissi in the AG’s view, is the place where the infringers are established: the place of upload of the online content, and the place where the online offer of the CDs was decided. The locus damni is identified by the AG with reference to L’Oreal for trademarks, and to Football Dataco for database rights. The ‘targeting’ of consumers and the ‘focus’ of a website are determinant in the view of the AG (in the case of diffuse focus and target, leading to limited jurisdiction per the Shevill rule: jurisdiction only for the damage occurred on that territory).  Mere accessibility of a site, ought not to be withheld in the view of the AG. Neither and importantly, the criterion of ‘centre of main interests’, withheld by the court in e-Date Advertising for the infringement of personality rights, and already rejected by the court in Wintersteiger for the infringement of trademarks: damage stemming from copyright infringement, the AG suggests, is not inherently related to the place of the copyright owner’s centre of interests.

Geert.

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‘Damage’, Brussels I and internet sales – Determining jurisdiction in copyright cases and material carriers

In Case C-170/12 Pinckney, on 11 April 2012, the French Cour de Cassation referred the following question for preliminary review with the Court of Justice (Case C-170/12)

 Is Article 5(3) of Council Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 of 22 December 2000 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters  to be interpreted as meaning that, in the event of an alleged infringement of copyright committed by means of content placed online on a website,

–           the person who considers that his rights have been infringed has the option of bringing an action to establish liability before the courts of each Member State in the territory of which content placed online is or has been accessible, in order to obtain compensation solely in respect of the damage suffered on the territory of the Member State before which the action is brought,

or

–           does that content also have to be, or to have been, directed at the public located in the territory of that Member State, or must some other clear connecting factor be present?

Is the answer to Question 1 the same if the alleged infringement of copyright results, not from the placing of dematerialised content online, but, as in the present case, from the online sale of a material carrier medium which reproduces that content?

As excellently summarised by Stephen Vousden here, the Cour de Cassation is assuming two CoJ precedents need to be distinguished from Pinckney:

Case C-324/09, L’Oréal, which concerns the territorial scope of the EU’s trademark laws and revolves around websites ‘targeting’ consumers as opposed to merely being accessible to them; and

Cases C-509/09 and C-161/10 eDate Advertising and Martinez (‘Kylie Minogue’), in which the Court added the connecting factor ‘centre of interests’ for internet infringements of personality right. As I reported here, the Court of Justice in Wintersteiger confirmed that the connecting factor ‘centre of interests’ in Kylie Minogue and eDate Advertising only holds for infringement of personality rights in an internet context. Trademark violation is distinguished, on the grounds that rebus sic stantibus intellectual property rights are protected on a territorial basis. In Pinckney, which also concerns intellectual property, the Cour de Cassation moreover points out that the offending item was in fact a material carrier: a vinyl record, illegally compiling songs.

Plenty of factual elements therefore, complicating the finding of ‘place of the harmful event’ /damage under Article 5(3) Brussels I.

Geert.

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