SIAE Copyright Police before the Advocate General
Late night discussion in Oslo turned to copyright enforcement in Italy, specifically the practices of the Societa Italiana degli Autori ed Editori (SIAE), a collective rights organisation. All CDs, Books, Software and DVDs must be registered and carry a small stamp sold by the SIAE at about 3 cents a pop. All live performances of music must make contact with the SIAE and provide a list of songs played and pay an appropriate license. I was amazed to hear that the Perugia office alone apparently employs six people, and that they systematically catalogue all posters on the city streets in their search.
Today the Slovenian Advocate General to the European Court of Justice, Verica Trstenja, issued an opinion on an interesting case challenging the SIAE’s practice. A german national Scwibbert, resident in Italy was the subject of a criminal prosecution for failing to have a SIAE stamps for CDs containing paintings by, amongst others, Giorgio De Chirico. His alleged offense is only the failure to afix the labels; he was in possession of the necessary rights and thus there is no claim of copyright infringement.
The Italian technical regulation was challenged as being a ‘measure with equivalent effect’ to a barrier to the freedom of movement of goods, and in breach of the requirements set out in Directive 98/34 on the ‘provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulation.’ Italian law required the stamps to be used with books prior to 1998 but later extended the scheme to cover other objects. The AG’s position is that the expansion required notification to the EU, and this not having been done, the trial judge in Forli should have refused to apply the provisions. Opinions of the Advocate general are not binding and are intended to guide the Judges of the ECJ, so this story may not have ended yet.
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