The free retransmission of TV broadcast programmes via the internet by a third enterprise without the consent of the initial broadcaster is contrary to EU copyright law. On 7 March, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled (Case C-607/11) that retransmission constitutes, under certain conditions, "a communication to the public" of works that must be authorised by their author, in line with Directive 2001/29/EC on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society.

TVCatchup Ltd ( TVC') offers, via the internet, "live" streams of free-to-air television broadcasts. TVC ensures that its subscribers can obtain access only to content which they are already legally entitled to watch in the UK by virtue of their television licence. Several British commercial television broadcasters take exception to this type of distribution of their television broadcasts. They for that reason brought proceedings against TVC before the High Court of Justice (England and Wales) for breach of their copyright in their broadcasts and films, alleging, inter alia, that there is a communication to the public that is prohibited both by national law and by Directive 2001/29.

The High Court asked the ECJ whether such services are compatible with EU law. The Luxembourg judges first noted that TVC's activity comes within the scope of the directive since the right of communication to the public covers any transmission or retransmission of a work to the public not present at the place where the communication originates, by wire or wireless means, including broadcasting...

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