Appellate hearing: GEMA versus Filmstarts and moviepilot
[Berlin, ] On 19 April 2017, the Berlin Court of Appeal is due to hear the appeal in GEMA versus Webedia GmbH – a publisher of leading entertainment brands such as Filmstarts, Moviepilot, GameStar, GamePro and IGN. In March 2016, the publishing group, whose focus is on digital media, contested GEMA’s first-instance action before the Berlin Regional Court for royalties for the public showing of film trailers containing music.
Webedia Deutschland’s online portals include the film portal “Filmstarts” and the film community “moviepilot”, which provide users with all the important information and news about the latest films at the cinema as well as on DVD and television. Its range of offerings include plot summaries, critiques, press reviews, viewers’ reactions as well as trailers for diverse film productions. Film distributors produce and distribute these trailers to promote their film productions. They contain – at least partially – also the music from the films.
GEMA now wishes to receive money from the entertainment portals since the film trailers usually contain music. It argues that the publication of a film trailer constitutes an independent form of use in connection with film marketing, and that such use is covered by the rights assigned to GEMA by the copyright owner of the music. The user fee demanded by GEMA does, however, seriously call into question the free use of trailers.
The appellate hearing will in a wider sense deal with the future of Internet portals which provide information about cinema and also make film trailers accessible free of charge. Webedia GmbH will be represented by GÖRG Partnerschaft von Rechtsanwälten (with Dr Oliver Spieker and partner Michael Alber taking a leading role).
After GÖRG rejected GEMA’s demand for payment on Webedia Deutschland’s behalf, GEMA filed a suit before the Berlin Regional Court. The Berlin Regional Court dismissed GEMA’s claim in its entirety in its judgment of 11 March 2016 (Case no. 15 O 218/15). The court ruled that the public display of a film trailer did not constitute an independent (chargeable) form of use, but instead amounted to an announcement of an upcoming licensed film. Thus film trailers are part of ordinary sales promotions and not subject to separate licence fees. Furthermore, the court found that the deeds of assignment between GEMA and the copyright owners of the music did not authorise GEMA to exercise the owners’ rights in connection with publicity for the films. GEMA’s appeal against this decision is currently pending before the Berlin Court of Appeal under case number 24 U 76/16. The hearing is scheduled for 19 April 2017.
GÖRG regularly advises on disputes in the copyright and licensing areas, both in- and out-of-court. In particular, Dr Oliver Spieker and Mr Michael Alber also regularly advise companies and rights owners on the crafting of licensing agreements.
Webedia Deutschland attracts about 10 million unique users with its brands and 300 million video views through its YouTube network agency allyance network each month. As a publisher on diverse entertainment themes, the Group’s expertise extends to brand solutions, brand services, productions and e-commerce. In addition to media campaigns, Webedia also offers social and brand publishing solutions as well as creative event and marketing concepts outside its own media reach. Webedia Deutschland belongs to the Webedia Group – France’s largest digital entertainment publisher – that was founded in 2007. Worldwide Webedia reaches over 90 million unique users each month.
Counsel for Webedia Deutschland GmbH
GÖRG Partnerschaft von Rechtsanwälten mbB, Berlin
Dr Oliver Spieker, partner
Michael Alber, associated partner
Counsel for GEMA
BEITEN BURKHARDT Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft mbH
Dr Fedor Seifert