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French court overturns Mulholland Drive ruling

A Paris Appeal Court ruling, in April 2005, that anti-copy systems integrated in DVD discs were illegal as they prevent private-use copying, has been struck down yesterday by France's Cour de cassation to the relief of Hollywood majors and content owners. The ruling confirms that there is no such thing as a private copy made from a DVD because it undermines the normal market exploitation of a title.

As a reminder, in a case opposing producers Les Film Alain Sarde and Studio Canal to the national consumer defence organisation UFC Que Choisir, the Paris Appeal Court had banned the inclusion into a DVD disc of any anti-copying system on the grounds that it prevents consumers from exercising the right to make a copy for private use, reversing its initial decision of April 2004.

Que Choisir took up the case of a consumer who had not succeeded to copy onto a VHS cassette the DVD of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive film which he had bought. The person had wanted to make a copy on VHS so that his mother who was not equipped with a DVD player could watch the film. This was a clear cut case allowed under rules governing copying for a family usage, said the court.

The Paris court also faulted the producers for lack of information to the consumer. The logo "CP" that stands for "Copie Prohibée" (copy prohibited), while featured on the DVD sleeves was written too small and was not explicit enough.

As a result of the ruling, Les Films Alain Sarde and Studio Canal had been given one month to strip all the DVD copies of the film of the anti-copying mechanism under the threat of a daily €100 fine. Furthermore, the producers were ordered to pay the defendant €100 as well as €1500 to Que Choisir for reparation. While satisfied with the result, the French consumer association was not awarded the damages it asked for from the producers.

Yesterday's Cour de cassation ruling was a victory for Les Films Alain Sarde and Studio Canal who, together with the French video publishers association (SEV), mounted a legal challenge. For Jean-Yves Mirski, SEV Secretary General, this judicial decision "restores France's international and European commitment, especially regarding the European Directive on Copyright currently being drafted. The decision also preserves the financing mechanism of French film production."

Story filed 01.03.06

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