Another Brick in the Wall: the Doctrine of Abuse of Right and Its Role in Increasing the Consistency of EU Copyright Law

Caterina Sganga (Central European University) & Silvia Scalzini (Scuola Superiore Sant), “Another Brick in the Wall: the Doctrine of Abuse of Right and Its Role in Increasing the Consistency of EU Copyright Law”

The great expansion of EU copyright law has paved the way to several rightholders’ abusive or dysfunctional conducts, without providing adequate solutions to prevent or remedy them. The answer of EU sources is characterized by extreme fragmentation, with tools mostly borrowed from external bodies of law. Paradoxically, the doctrine of abuse of right has long been neglected as a potential solution, mainly due to its flaws – difficult evidence-taking and weak remedies - and its incompatibility with the discretionary nature of continental author’s rights. Yet, the notion emerges between the lines of several ECJ’s decisions, and finds its way from civil codes to copyright in a number of national courts’ precedents. Due to the paradigm shift towards a market-oriented and industry-based inspiration, EU copyright seems now open to admit the possibility of misuses.

Starting from these premises, this article argues that a unitary doctrine of copyright misuse may constitute an effective balancing tool for most of the dysfunctional conducts that copyright law and other bodies of law are still unable to resolve. In addition, it may also act as regulatory paradigm to ensure greater certainty and transparency in the judicial development of key principles and rules of EU copyright law. To this end, the paper (a) proposes a four-prong-test of abusiveness, embedding criteria of proportionality and reasonableness inspired to the normative function(s) of exclusive rights; (b) offers new perspectives on potential remedies; and (c) shows selected examples of the positive impact of the doctrine on the systematization of the current copyright legislative framework.

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