SGAE v. Luis
Provincial Court of Pontevedra (1st section)
Bar claimed to play only CC licensed music but also played non-CC music, found liable for copyright infiringement of non-CC music
A Spanish collecting society, the Sociedad General de Autores y Editores (SGAE) successfully sued a coffee bar owner, alleging that he had failed to pay SGAE the license fee required for public performances of music managed by the collecting society during the period between June 2003 and November 2004. On appeal, the defendant presented the Creative Commons license and argued that the coffee bar only played openly licensed music. SGAE offered evidence, however, that the business also played music that was part of the SGAE catalogue, such as songs by Gloria Estefan. The defendant did not prove that the relevant rightsholders applied CC licenses to those works.
The Provincial Court rejected the appeal because the coffee bar made a public performance of copyrighted works from the SGAE catalogue. Since the copyright holders of the relevant works had not applied the CC license, the defendant’s reference to the CC license had no effect. The opinion stated in dicta that the CC license was “nothing but a mere informatory leaflet about the contents of the license and is lacking any signature; therefore it cannot be asserted any value.” Although some commentators have expressed concern that this language jeopardizes the validity of CC licenses in Spain, the validity of CC license was not at issue as the rightsholders never applied the CC license in the first place.
CC licenses are not effective when applied by anyone other than the copyright holder. Until a copyright holder applies the license to their work, the license has no effect.
While the dicta in this case on a casual read has suggested to some that CC licenses are not enforceable without the licensor’s signature, a closer look at the facts and the opinion appears to indicate that this was not at issue or in dispute. A party wishing to rely on a CC license to play music cannot apply a CC license to a work without permission from the owner.
As a side note, the same court ruled against SGAE in a later, unrelated case, and held that a different venue owner did not have to pay royalties for the public performance of openly licensed works (See Judgment No. 477/2008 of the Provincial Court of Pontevedra, 31 July 2008).
Decision in Spanish: http://www.interiuris.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/Creative_Commons_APPO.pdf
Translation in English: http://europe.creativecommons.org/webfm_send/1