IP case law Court of Justice

Article 4 - Distribution right

1. Member States shall provide for authors, in respect of the original of their works or of copies thereof, the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit any form of distribution to the public by sale or otherwise.

2. The distribution right shall not be exhausted within the Community in respect of the original or copies of the work, except where the first sale or other transfer of ownership in the Community of that object is made by the rightholder or with his consent.

2 pending referrals

Referral C-263/18 (Nederlands Uitgeversverbond and Groep Algemene Uitgevers, 16 Apr 2018)


Referral C-572/17 (Syed, 28 Sep 2017)


6 preliminary rulings

Judgment of 10 Nov 2016, C-174/15 (Vereniging Openbare Bibliotheken)

EU law, and in particular Article 6 of Directive 2006/115, must be interpreted as not precluding a Member State from making the application of Article 6(1) of Directive 2006/115 subject to the condition that the digital copy of a book made available by the public library must have been put into circulation by a first sale or other transfer of ownership of that copy in the European Union by the holder of the right of distribution to the public or with his consent, for the purpose of Article 4(2) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society.

Judgment of 13 May 2015, C-516/13 (Dimensione Direct Sales)

Article 4(1) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that it allows a holder of an exclusive right to distribute a protected work to prevent an offer for sale or a targeted advertisement of the original or a copy of that work, even if it is not established that that advertisement gave rise to the purchase of the protected work by an EU buyer, in so far as that advertisement invites consumers of the Member State in which that work is protected by copyright to purchase it.

Judgment of 22 Jan 2015, C-419/13 (Art & Allposters)

Article 4(2) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society must be interpreted as meaning that the rule of exhaustion of the distribution right set out in Article 4(2) of Directive 2001/29 does not apply in a situation where a reproduction of a protected work, after having been marketed in the European Union with the copyright holder’s consent, has undergone an alteration of its medium, such as the transfer of that reproduction from a paper poster onto a canvas, and is placed on the market again in its new form.

Judgment of 21 Jun 2012, C-5/11 (Donner)

A trader who directs his advertising at members of the public residing in a given Member State and creates or makes available to them a specific delivery system and payment method, or allows a third party to do so, thereby enabling those members of the public to receive delivery of copies of works protected by copyright in that same Member State, makes, in the Member State where the delivery takes place, a ‘distribution to the public’ under Article 4(1) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society. Articles 34 TFEU and 36 TFEU must be interpreted as meaning that they do not preclude a Member State from bringing a prosecution under national criminal law for the offence of aiding and abetting the prohibited distribution of copies of copyright-protected works where copies of such works are distributed to the public on the territory of that Member State in the context of a sale, aimed specifically at the public of that State, concluded in another Member State where those works are not protected by copyright or the protection conferred on them is not enforceable as against third parties.

Judgment of 17 Apr 2008, C-456/06 (Peek & Cloppenburg)

The concept of distribution to the public, otherwise than through sale, of the original of a work or a copy thereof, for the purpose of Article 4(1) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, applies only where there is a transfer of the ownership of that object. As a result, neither granting to the public the right to use reproductions of a work protected by copyright nor exhibiting to the public those reproductions without actually granting a right to use them can constitute such a form of distribution.

Judgment of 12 Sep 2006, C-479/04 (Laserdisken)

Consideration of the first question does not reveal any information such as to affect the validity of Article 4(2) of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society.

Article 4(2) of Directive 2001/29 is to be interpreted as precluding national rules providing for exhaustion of the distribution right in respect of the original or copies of a work placed on the market outside the European Community by the rightholder or with his consent.


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