Court backs general copyright injunction

Out-Law News | 31 Jan 2020 | 3:00 pm | 1 min. read

Copyright holders will welcome a recent ruling that clarified that injunctions imposed on infringers can be broader in scope than the specific infringements those infringers have been found liable for, a copyright law expert has said.

Dr. Nils Rauer of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, was commenting after a judge at the High Court in London confirmed that music labels Warner Music and Sony Music Entertainment were entitled to "injunctive relief in general terms" against TuneIn, a US company that operates an online platform that enables users to access links to listen to thousands of radio stations around the world.

The judge had previously ruled in November last year that TuneIn was liable for infringement of Warner and Sony's copyright.

At the trial, Warner and Sony's relied on evidence in relation to some sound recordings and some radio stations to underpin its case in relation to TuneIn's liability for more widespread infringement. At post-trial hearings on the subject of relief that the music labels should be awarded to account for its infringement, TuneIn claimed that the relief should be restricted to apply only to the sample cases that were referenced in the trial. However, Mr Justice Birss rejected that request.

"In my judgment an injunction limited to the sample radio stations would not be effective, proportionate or dissuasive," Mr Justice Birss said. "It would not equiparate with the scale of [TuneIn's] infringing activity. Nor would such an injunction strike a fair balance between the [music labels'] rights and the various fundamental rights relied on by [TuneIn]."

"The just and proportionate injunction to grant following the finding in the main judgment is a general injunction to restrain copyright infringement with a provision providing reasonable clarity about the [music labels'] repertoire," he said.

Rauer said the judgment strengthens the position of copyright owners and ensures they benefit from a high level of protection against infringement.

"The judge rightly follows the principle that the operative part of court rulings does not always have to reflect the full scope of wider infringements claimed by rights holders, and that therefore the scope of injunctive relief must also cover infringements equal or comparably similar to the examples cited," Rauer said.

"However, this is not the case in respect of an award of damages, where the amount must always be linked to the overall scope of infringement actually demonstrated by the rights holder," he said.

Rauer also said that the ruling demonstrates how important it is for collecting societies to have an adequate database in place and available to enable potential users and licensees to verify whether they need to obtain a licence. He said those databases would make it easier to gather evidence on the scope of rights holders' portfolio of works and to therefore better define the scope of injunctions.