Neighbouring rights of videogram producers: the end of the road for a university

16/07/2021

Civil 1st, 16 June 2021, FS-B, No. 19-21.663

A university proposed to a producer to produce a film on the occasion of the centenary of the formulation of Einstein’s theory of general relativity. An agreement was therefore concluded for the transfer of non-commercial exploitation rights on all media in return for funding. The producer also entered into a copyright assignment agreement with the director which provided that neither the producer nor the director could exploit the unedited footage of the documentary (the rushes) without prior reciprocal permission.

After discovering that DVDs reproducing the film and rushes from the shooting not included in the final version were being distributed without his authorisation, the producer sued the University for copyright infringement, contractual liability, unfair competition and parasitism.

The Court of Appeal rejected these claims before the Court of Cassation partially overturned the decision.

Do the rights granted to the producer of a videogram apply to the unedited shots of the filming?

In its judgment of 16 June 2021, the Court of Cassation recalls that in application of Article L215-1 of the Intellectual Property Code, “the producer of videograms is the holder of the right to authorise the reproduction, making available or communication to the public of the unedited filming proofs or rushes for which he or she had the initiative and responsibility for the first fixation“.

The 16 June ruling thus recalls the distinction between the neighbouring right of videogram producers and the copyright to which the rushes may be subject.

By Raphael Dulion and the IP/IT team of UGGC Avocats.

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