We succesfully represented Viasat AS in the dispute with Estonian Authors’ Union

Triniti

19th June, 2014 Estonian Supreme Court dismissed Estonian Author’s Union (EAÜ) appeal for cassation.

The client has said that “This case is a fair outcome of a long lawsuit and a success for satellite operators’ activities in Europe”.

In 2011 EAÜ  presented claims against Viasat: to order Viasat to refrain from providing the signal of 42 different television programmes (incl. ETV, ETV2, Kanal 2, TV3, TV6 and Kanal 11) to end consumers without obtaining a prior permission (license) from EAÜ; to order Viasat to pay to the EAÜ.

Viasat’s economic activity is provision of the disputed television channels’ signal to end consumers. The television service providers have signed contracts with collective management organisations and Viasat has not signed a license contract with the EAÜ or any other collective management organisation for provision of the television programmes to consumers in Estonia and has not paid them remuneration for that.

The main question of the dispute was whether Viasat was obliged to obtain EAÜ’s consent for providing the disputed television channels’ signal to end consumers in Estonia and to pay remuneration to the EAÜ for that.

From legal perspective, the law states that if a television programme is transmitted via satellite by a television service provider (i.e. under its control and responsibility), the (unified) transmitter of the television programme is the television service provider who must achieve an agreement of transmission of works with the authors in the country of entering the signals into the uninterrupted chain of communication. In that case, the undertaking enabling the service of transmission via satellite (such as Viasat) is only a provider of a technical service and does not itself transmit the programmes within the meaning of the Copyright Act. Therefore, it does not need to obtain the authors’ consent nor to pay remuneration to them for its activity.

Although the presumption is that primarily the transmitter of the television programmes is the television service provider, the authors’ consent is also required for the satellite service provider if that satellite service provider, by its service, makes the television programmes available to a wider public than that which was intended by the authors and the television service provider when signing the agreement of communicating the works.

The court found that no new public was created by the activities of Viasat and thus Viasat is not required to obtain the consent of the authors and is also not required to pay remuneration to them, because the (unified) transmitter of the television programmes is the television service providers who have signed contracts for transmission of the works with the authors in the country of entering the signals into an uninterrupted chain of communication. Viasat is an undertaking enabling the service of transmission via satellite and is not itself transmitting the programmes within the meaning of the Copyright Act.

In simple words – there are no activities of Viasat that would require consent from authors.

Viasat was represented by attorneys-at-law Karmen Turk and Erki Vabamets from the law firm TRINITI.