Copyright, Technology and the CJEU: An Empirical Study

  • Tito Rendas


The framework of rights and exceptions in EU copyright law is often criticised for lacking the flexibility that is necessary in times of rampant technological change. Courts, however, occasionally refuse to abide by the framework’s interpretative constraints, in order to accommodate certain technology-enabled uses. In some cases, the CJEU has adopted flexible readings of the exceptions in question. In other cases, national courts have openly construed the three-step test as an enabling standard, rather than as a restrictive one. Using the relevant case law of the CJEU as its research sample, this article aims to empirically investigate the extent to which European courts are deciding in such a flexible manner and rendering technology-enabled uses to be non-infringing. This study reveals that the number of uses that the CJEU has deemed non-infringing exceeds those that have been held infringing. It shows, moreover, that the CJEU has circumvented interpretative constraints in the majority of these cases. These findings suggest that the existing framework is indeed unfit for times of accelerated technological change, but for a different reason than that commonly thought. The main reason for introducing a greater degree of flexibility in EU copyright law is, somewhat paradoxically, related to legal certainty.


EU copyright law Technology CJEU Rights Exceptions Flexibility 



I am grateful to Ana Ramalho, Bernt Hugenholtz, Cédric Manara, Dário Moura Vicente, Deborah Hensler, Giovanni Sartor, Henrique Sousa Antunes, João Pedro Quintais, Patrícia Akester, Sofia Oliveira Pais, the persons who took part in the Católica Graduate Legal Research Conference 2017 (in Lisbon), TILTing Perspectives 2017 (in Tilburg) and CopyCamp 2016 (in Warsaw), and two anonymous reviewers for helpful suggestions and comments. The usual disclaimer applies. I would like to acknowledge the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology and thank them for the financial support they provided (Grant PD/BD/105903/2014).


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Copyright information

© Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition, Munich 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidade Católica Portuguesa, Faculdade de Direito (Lisboa)LisbonPortugal

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