News & Views

Do Not Rely on the Principle of Restrictive Interpretation - Fresh Finnish Copyright Agreement Case Law

22 February 2017

Author: Ilona Tulokas

So far, February 2017 has been good to us copyright nerds. Two rather interesting judgements have been issued this month: Pirate Bay/Bredbandsbolaget – the judgement that Camilla wrote about yesterday and the Finnish Market Court’s judgement regarding the transfer of photo rights (so-called neighbouring rights), as discussed below.

The Finnish Market Court case was, in brief, about whether a company named Lumon Oy had infringed upon the claimants’ photo rights (the Finnish Copyright Act Section 49a), when Lumon Oy allegedly transferred its rights to licensed photos to its subsidiary and used the photos in a wider geographical scope than expressly agreed.

What made the judgement an interesting read was that in order to be able to answer the questions above, the Market Court had to analyse and break down some general issues relating to (copyright) contracts. The first challenge was to define the parties of the agreement, and further the scope of the granted license, since no written agreement existed regarding the transfer of the rights to the photos.

The Market Court expressly refrained from applying the principle of restrictive interpretation on the case. The Court argued that since the parties were to be regarded as equally strong, there was no need to apply the rather elementary copyright principle. Hence, the fact that the parties had not expressly defined the scope of the license did not automatically play into the claimants’ hands. On the contrary, the Market Court was of the opinion that the licence had not been geographically restricted as no such limitations had been expressly stated, and therefore, Lumon Oy’s use of the photos did not constitute a breach of the agreement or infringe the claimants’ rights.

The Market Court held that the agreement had been concluded between the claimants/their company and Lumon Oy. In the Market Court’s opinion, Lumon Oy had however, infringed upon the claimants’ rights when it transferred its rights to one of Lumon Oy’s independent subsidiaries.

The Market Court also analysed whether there were grounds for the adjustment of the agreement under Section 29 of the Copyright Act. Here again the Market Court emphasized, amongst others, the equal position of the parties and viewed that no reasons for adjustment seemed to exist.