Is There a EU Copyright Jurisprudence? An Empirical Analysis of the Workings of the European Court of Justice

Modern Law Review 79(1): 31-75 (January 2016)

38 Pages Posted: 15 Aug 2015 Last revised: 14 Jan 2016

See all articles by Marcella Favale

Marcella Favale

Bournemouth University; University of Glasgow

Martin Kretschmer

University of Glasgow - School of Law

Paul L.C. Torremans


Date Written: August 13, 2015


The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) has been suspected of carrying out a harmonising agenda over and beyond the conventional law-interpreting function of the judiciary. This study aims to investigate empirically two theories in relation to the development of EU copyright law: (i) that the Court has failed to develop a coherent copyright jurisprudence (lacking domain expertise, copyright specific reasoning, and predictability); (ii) that the Court has pursued an activist, harmonising agenda (resorting to teleological interpretation of European law rather than – less discretionary – semantic and systematic legal approaches).

We have collected two data sets relating to all ECJ copyright and database cases up to Svensson (February 2014): (1) Statistics about the allocation of cases to chambers, the composition of chambers, the Judge Rapporteur, and Advocate General (including coding of the professional background of the personnel); (2) Content analysis of argumentative patterns in the decisions themselves, using a qualitative coding technique. Studying the relationship between (1) and (2) allows us to identify links between certain Chambers/ Court members and legal approaches, over time, and by subject. These shed light on the internal workings of the court, and also enable us to explore theories about the nature of ECJ jurisprudence.

The analysis shows that private law and in particular intellectual property law expertise is almost entirely missing from the Court. However, we find that the Court has developed a mechanism for enabling judicial learning through the systematic assignment of cases to certain Judges and AGs. We also find that the Court has developed a “fair balance” topos linked to Judge Malenovský (rapporteur on 24 out of 40 copyright cases) that does not predict an agenda of upward harmonisation, with about half of judgments narrowing rather than widening the scope of copyright protection.

Keywords: Court of Justice of the European Union, CJEU, Copyright, European jurisprudence, Advocate General, harmonization, European Union

JEL Classification: K4, H41

Suggested Citation

Favale, Marcella and Kretschmer, Martin and Torremans, Paul L.C., Is There a EU Copyright Jurisprudence? An Empirical Analysis of the Workings of the European Court of Justice (August 13, 2015). Modern Law Review 79(1): 31-75 (January 2016), Available at SSRN:

Marcella Favale

Bournemouth University ( email )

Fern Barrow
Poole BH12 5BB, Dorset BH8 8EB
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://

University of Glasgow ( email )

Adam Smith Business School
Glasgow, Scotland G12 8LE
United Kingdom

Martin Kretschmer (Contact Author)

University of Glasgow - School of Law ( email )

CREATe, School of Law
10 The Square
Glasgow, G12 8QQ
United Kingdom

Paul L.C. Torremans

Independent ( email )

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics