Who didn’t liven up their school papers with images from Google or from books of the school library when they were young? Unaware of any harm, you’d copy and paste pictures of hamsters, football players and cities just to reach that minimum page count of that annoying school paper. A German pupil did exactly that when she had to write a school paper on the Spanish city Cordoba. The proud pupil then uploaded her paper, including a photo of the city, on the school website. This was the start of legal proceedings that eventually even reached the Court of Justice of the EU.
The professional photographer got wind of the use of his photo and considered that it was an infringement of his copyright. The photographer therefore sought the discontinuance of the conduct, together with damages. In order to solve the issue, the Bundesgerichthof of Germany asked the Court of Justice of the EU whether uploading the school paper with the picture would constitute a communication to a “new public”, and whether it would therefore constitute a copyright infringement.
The Court is of the opinion that this constitutes a communication to a new public, despite the secondary nature of the photograph, as part of a school project, the ease of ‘universal’ access to that image, without any notification of restrictions, and the lack of a profit motive of the pupil and the teaching staff.
For copyright owners, the judgment of the Court is positive because it acknowledges that the internet does not reduce their control over their works. On the other hand, the Court just found a new way to make the school experience of modern pupils even more stressful than it already was.
Mathijs Peijnenburg, paralegal

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