Are National Courts the Addressees of the InfoSoc Three-Step Test?
(2015) 10(10) Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 741-749
14 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2015 Last revised: 20 Feb 2016
Date Written: July 6, 2015
Directive 2001/29/EC (the ‘InfoSoc Directive’) contains an exhaustive list of exceptions and limitations that Member States are free to implement into their own copyright laws (save that the exemption for temporary copies is mandatory). Article 5(5) incorporates the three-step test and mandates that exceptions and limitations shall only be applied in certain special cases that do not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work or other subject-matter and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rightholder. Unlike the three-step test in international copyright law, it is uncertain whether the three-step test in the InfoSoc Directive is addressed to national courts as well as the legislatures of the Member States.
Recent case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘CJEU’) has provided guidance in this respect. Although the Court has held that Article 5(5) of the InfoSoc Directive is not intended to affect the substantive content of the exceptions contained in Article 5(1), (2) and (3) thereof, and hence cannot extend their scope, and has held that, if acts fall clearly within one of those exceptions, then they satisfy Article 5(5), it has also held that those exceptions must be construed in the light of Article 5(5). More significantly, despite holding that Article 5(5) takes effect only at the time that the exceptions are applied by the Member States, the CJEU has also held that the acts of the defendant in question must satisfy the requirements of Article 5(5). As such, it appears from the CJEU’s jurisprudence that the three-step test in the InfoSoc Directive is addressed at national legislators and courts alike.
The consequence of this is that, even in those Member States that have not transposed the language of the three-step test into their own legal systems, courts must determine not only whether the acts of the defendant in question are eligible for the application of a certain exception or limitation, but also whether they comply with the cumulative conditions set in the InfoSoc three-step test.
Keywords: three-step test, EU copyright, InfoSoc Directive, CJEU, parody, Enforcement Directive, Article 5 Directive 2001/29, national courts, national legislatures
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