Online Copyright Exhaustion in a Post-Allposters World

(2015) 10(9) Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 673-681

Posted: 3 Jun 2015 Last revised: 10 Aug 2022

See all articles by Eleonora Rosati

Eleonora Rosati

Stockholm University, Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 2, 2015


Article 4(2) of Directive 2001/29 (the ‘InfoSoc Directive’) provides that the authorised first sale of a work within the territory of the European Union (‘EU’) exhausts the right of the copyright owner to control any subsequent distribution of the work in question. What the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘CJEU’) had been asked to clarify in Allposters was whether this rule also applies to works that, following their authorised first sale, are subject to an alteration of their mediums and are then re-marketed in this new form.

The court referred to both Recital 28 in the preamble to the InfoSoc Directive and Article 6 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty, including the Agreed Statement on Articles 6 and 7, to hold the view that exhaustion of the right of distribution only applies to the tangible copy of a work.

In so doing, albeit rooted within a very specific (analogue) background, the CJEU appeared to rule out any possibility of having digital exhaustion under the InfoSoc Directive. Whether EU law allows digital exhaustion arguably remains however an unresolved issue, with diverging interpretations being provided at the level of national courts. Yet, despite the legal and economic relevance of allowing markets for second-hand digital works, current EU copyright reform plans seem regrettably not to include any consideration of issues facing general digital exhaustion, or its lack thereof.

Keywords: EU copyright, CJEU, digital exhaustion, exhaustion, software, UsedSoft, Allposters, InfoSoc Directive, Software Directive, EU copyright policy

Suggested Citation

Rosati, Eleonora, Online Copyright Exhaustion in a Post-Allposters World (June 2, 2015). (2015) 10(9) Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 673-681, Available at SSRN:

Eleonora Rosati (Contact Author)

Stockholm University, Faculty of Law ( email )

S-106 91 Stockholm

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