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Limitations and Exceptions as Key Elements of the Legal Framework for Copyright in the European Union – Opinion of the European Copyright Society on the Judgment of the CJEU in Case C-201/13 Deckmyn


In this opinion, the European Copyright Society (ECS) puts on record its views on the issues raised by the Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Case C-201/13, Deckmyn, which departs from the doctrine of strict interpretation of exceptions and limitations in cases in which fundamental rights such as freedom of expression are involved. The opinion welcomes this development for the following reasons: firstly, due to the importance of exceptions and limitations in facilitating creativity and securing a fair balance between the protection of and access to copyright works; secondly, because of the Court’s determination to secure a harmonized interpretation of the meaning of exceptions and limitations; thirdly, because of the Court’s adoption of an approach to the interpretation of exceptions and limitations which promotes their effectiveness and purpose; and, finally, due to the Court’s recognition of the role of fundamental rights in the copyright system: in particular, its recognition that the parodic use of works is justified by the right to freedom of expression. At the same time, the ECS recommends caution in constraining the scope of exceptions and limitations in a manner that may go beyond what might be considered necessary in a democratic society.

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  1. 1.

    For further activities of the European Copyright Society, see e.g. the ECS Opinion issued in the Svensson case (Case C-466/12) (ECS, “Opinion on the reference to the CJEU in Case C-466/12 Svensson”, 15 February 2013, available 25 September 2014 at or; or the response earlier this year to the Public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules by the European Commission (ECS, “Answer to EC consultation on copyright”, March 2014, available 25 September 2014 at

  2. 2.

    For the headnotes to this decision, see this issue of IIC at doi:10.1007/s40319-014-0276-x.

  3. 3.

    See, for instance, Geiger and Schönherr (2014) and Geiger and Schönherr (2012), Janssens (2009) with further references, Hilty (2004), van Eechoud et al. (2009), Hugenholtz (2000), Guibault (2006), Bechtold (2006).

  4. 4.

    See e.g. Case C-117/13, Ulmer [2014], [47]; Case C-435/12, ACI Adam and Others [2014], [26]; Case C-5/08, Infopaq [2009] ECR I-06569, [58].

  5. 5.

    See on this in detail Geiger et al. (2014), Senftleben (2014), Hugenholtz and Senftleben (2014).

  6. 6.

    See in this sense the “Declaration on a Balanced Interpretation of the Three-Step Test in Copyright law”, 39 IIC 707 (2008).

  7. 7.

    See e.g. Copyright Act of South Korea, Law No. 9625, 22 April 2009, Art. 28; Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines 1997, para. 185.1, Rep. Act 8293; Copyright Act of Singapore, S 107/87, 10 April 1987, paras. 35 and 36; Copyright Act of Israel, 5768-2007, 2007 LSI 34, Art. 19 (2007); Copyright Act of Malaysia, Act 332, 30 April 1987, para. 13(2)(a). Moreover, in consultations on new copyright legislation, open-ended copyright E&L have also been proposed in Australia, Ireland, and the UK: see Copyright and the Digital Economy 59–98 (Australian Law Reform Commission, Discussion Paper 79, 2013); Copyright and Innovation: A Consultation Paper Prepared by the Copyright Review Committee for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation 111–23 (Copyright Review Committee Consultation Paper, 2012); Hargreaves (2011). See further Geiger et al. (2014). See also Band and Gerafi (2014), reproducing the fair use and fair dealing statutes of 40 countries and concluding that “the broad diffusion of fair use and fair dealing indicates that there is no basis for preventing the more widespread adoption of these doctrines, with the benefits their flexibility brings to authors, publishers, consumers, technology companies, libraries, museums, educational institutions, and governments”.

  8. 8.

    Various Commission initiatives evoke the issue of limitations and acknowledge that reform might be necessary. See Green Paper from the European Commission on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy, COM(2008) 466 final, Brussels, 16 July 2008; Creative Content in a European Digital Single Market: Challenges for the Future, Reflection Document of DG INFSO and MARKT of the European Commission, 22 October 2009; Communication from the Commission on content in the Digital Single Market, Brussels, 18 December 2012, COM(2012) 789 final; Public Consultation of the European Commission on the review of the European Union copyright rules, 5 December 2013.

  9. 9.

    Deckmyn, [22]; Case C-435/12, ACI Adam and Others [2014], [23]; Case C-5/08, Infopaq [2009] ECR I-06569, [56].

  10. 10.

    Recital 31 in the preamble to the Directive 2001/29; Deckmyn, [27]; Case C-314/12, UPC Telekabel [2014], [46]; Case C-461/10, Bonnier Audio and Others [2012], [56]; Case C-360/10, SABAM v. Netlog [2012], [51]; Case C-70/10, Scarlet Extended [2011] ECR I-11959, [53]; Case C-145/10, Painer [2011] ECR I-12533, [132]; Case C-557/07, Tele2 [2009] ECR I-01227, [28]; Case C-275/06, Promusicae [2008] ECR I-00271, [68].

  11. 11.

    The concept of “users’ rights” is also familiar to the Supreme Court of Canada, which since its Théberge v. Galerie d’Art du Petit Champlain Inc., [2002] 2 SCR 336 and CCH Canadian Ltd. v. Law Society of Upper Canada, [2004] 1 SCR 339 decisions has increasingly emphasized “a move away from an earlier, author-centric view” towards “promoting the public interest” and the “users’ rights [as] an essential part of furthering the public interest objectives of the Copyright Act”: SOCAN v. Bell Canada, [2012] 2 SCR 326, [9]-[11]. See also Alberta (Minister of Education) v. Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency (Access Copyright), [2012] 2 SCR 345. Interestingly, the Court explicitly referred in these cases to the proper balance between protection and access as an ultimate goal of any copyright law regulation – the same dual rationale that underlines the protection of creators under Art. 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Art. 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

  12. 12.

    Article 1 of the First Protocol to the ECHR.

  13. 13.

    As to the influence of freedom of expression guarantees on copyright, cf. Hugenholtz (2002), Geiger (2006), Geiger and Izyumenko (2014), Strowel and Tulkens (2006), Griffiths and Suthersanen (2005), Macciacchini (2000), Benkler (1999), Netanel (1996).

  14. 14.

    In the same spirit, the CJEU had previously denied intellectual property protection to expressions of racist nature: see, in the trademark context, Case T-526/09, PAKI [2011] ECR II-00346. Cf. United States Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Amanda Blackhorse, Marcus Briggs-Cloud, Philip Gover, Jillian Pappan, and Courtney Tsotigh v. Pro-Football, Inc., 18 June 2014, Cancellation No. 92046185, available 1 October 2014 at

  15. 15.

    Thus, in accordance with Art. 10(2) ECHR (to which Art. 11 of the EU Charter corresponds), any limitation to the right to freedom of expression can only be justified if it is “prescribed by law and [is] necessary in a democratic society”.


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  2. Bechtold S (2006) Information Society Dir., art. 5. In: Dreier T, Hugenholtz PB (eds) Concise European copyright law, Kluwer Law International, Alphen aan den Rijn, p 369

  3. Benkler Y (1999) Free as the air to common use: First Amendment constraints on enclosure of the public domain. N Y Univ Law Rev 74(2):355

  4. Geiger C, Schönherr F (2014) Limitations to copyright in the digital age. In: Savin A, Trzaskowski J (eds) Research handbook on EU internet law, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, p 110

  5. Geiger C, Schönherr F (2012) Defining the scope of protection of copyright in the EU: the need to reconsider the acquis regarding limitations and exceptions. In: Synodinou T (ed) Codification of European copyright law, challenges and perspectives, Kluwer Law International, Alphen aan den Rijn, p 142

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  7. Geiger C, Izyumenko E (2014) Copyright on the human rights’ trial: redefining the boundaries of exclusivity through freedom of expression. IIC 45(3):316

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  9. Griffiths J, Suthersanen U (eds) (2005) Copyright and free speech. Oxford University Press, Oxford

  10. Guibault L (2006) Why cherry-picking never leads to harmonisation: the case of the limitations on copyright under directive 2001/29/EC. JIPITEC 1:57

  11. Hargreaves I (2011) Digital opportunity: a review of intellectual property and growth, United Kingdom Intellectual Property Office 44–52. Accessed 25 Sept 2014

  12. Hilty RM (2004) Copyright in the internal market, harmonisation vs. community copyright law. IIC 35(7):760

  13. Hugenholtz PB (2000) Why the copyright directive is un-important, and possibly invalid. EIPR 22(11):501

  14. Hugenholtz PB (2002) Copyright and freedom of expression in Europe. In: Elkin-Koren N, Netanel NW (eds) The commodification of information. Kluwer, The Hague, p 239

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  16. Janssens M.-C. (2009) The issue of exceptions: reshaping the keys to the gates in the territory of literary, musical and artistic creation. In: Derclaye E (ed) Research handbook on the future of EU copyright, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, p 317

  17. Macciacchini S (2000) Urheberrecht und Meinungsfreiheit. Stämpfli, Bern

  18. Netanel NW (1996) Copyright and a democratic civil society. Yale Law J 106:283

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  21. van Eechoud M et al (2009) Harmonizing European copyright law, the challenges of better lawmaking, Wolters Kluwer Law & Business, Alphen aan den Rijn

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Correspondence to Christophe Geiger.

Additional information

The authors drafted the Opinion on behalf of the European Copyright Society (ECS), taking into account the comments made by the signatories. It is thus to be considered as a statement of the ECS, not of its individual authors. Assistance with drafting this Opinion was provided by Elena Izyumenko, Doctoral Candidate at the Center for International Intellectual Property Studies (CEIPI), University of Strasbourg. The ECS wishes to express its gratitude for her help.

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Geiger, C., Griffiths, J., Senftleben, M. et al. Limitations and Exceptions as Key Elements of the Legal Framework for Copyright in the European Union – Opinion of the European Copyright Society on the Judgment of the CJEU in Case C-201/13 Deckmyn . IIC 46, 93–101 (2015).

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  • Copyright law
  • Limitations and exceptions
  • Fundamental rights
  • Freedom of expression
  • Deckmyn