Consumers’ FAQs on copyright: streaming from the internet

There has been published a very useful guide for consumers and for anyone who is curious about copyright. This guide explains different things, relating to IP rights, in simple way. The project has been commissioned by the European Union intellectual property office.

The Guide aims to give ‘answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) average consumers have in relation to copyright for all twenty-eight EU Member States.’ The present Summary Report highlights the convergences and differences in national copyright laws in relation to the 15 consumer questions.

During the process of streaming, no fixed copy or file is created on the user’s computer. In any event, should a streaming service require a simultaneous upload – and communication the public – of a protected work at the same time as the streaming is going on, use of such a service cannot be exempted from constituting infringement.

First, streaming is always allowed when the rights holder has authorised it, for example, in the framework of a licensing agreement. In Ireland and Italy, streaming would probably amount to copyright infringement if it took place outside the framework of a licensing agreement.

According to the Slovenian expert, streaming may not involve an act of reproduction, that is to say, it would not amount to copyright infringement since it would amount to mere consumption of a work. In the view of the experts from Poland and Finland, streaming would probably not entail an act of reproduction.

Certain experts take the view that even if an act of reproduction were involved, the latter would be exempted as transient, incidental copying (see, e.g. BE, BG, EE, CY, HU, AT, PL, SK, SE), which is covered by a specific limitation and exception in many Member States and in the EU acquis. Some experts mention that in order for the exception to apply, additional conditions must be met. Notably, the work must have been uploaded to the internet with the rights holder’s authorisation.

Some experts mention that if streaming involved an act of reproduction, it could be justified on the basis of the private copying exception, if the conditions for the latter are met. In sum, several experts state that streaming a work is lawful as long as the source is lawful, that is to say, when the work has been uploaded with the rights holder’s authorisation (see, e.g. the information provided by the experts from DK, DE, EL, ES, FR, CY, LV, LT, RO). Some experts note that it is unclear whether streaming from an unlawful source can be lawful (see, e.g. the information provided by the experts from CZ, LU, MT, FI, UK).