For websites the “place of the (alleged) infringement” should more precisely be regarded as “each place where the website in question is accessible”.
It happens from time to time: a photograph is used on a website without the photographer’s consent. Can the (alleged) infringer be sued in another place than his place of business? In a recent decision of 8 November 2022, the Antwerp district court gives guidance.
In this case the defendant edited and used a photograph of the plaintiff on its .be website without the plaintiff’s consent. The plaintiff, a British photographer, subpoenaed the defendant before the commercial court of Antwerp. The material and territorial jurisdiction of the commercial court of Antwerp were questioned and the case was consequently sent to the Antwerp district court to rule on this matter.
In its’ recent decision, the Antwerp district court ruled that the commercial court of Antwerp lacked material jurisdiction considering the defendant did not qualify as an “entrepreneur” within the meaning of Article I.1, 1° of the Belgian Code of Economic Law.
However, as regards territorial jurisdiction, the district court did not uphold the public prosecutor’s assertions that the defendant should have been subpoenaed in West Flanders in accordance with Article 624, 1° of the Belgian Judicial Code since he was domiciled there. The court stated that when it comes to copyright claims the competent judge in accordance with Article 633quinquies, §1 of the Belgian Judicial Code is the court located at the seat of the court of appeal of the “place of the (alleged) infringement”, which should be interpreted broadly.
For websites the “place of the (alleged) infringement” should more precisely be regarded as “each place where the website in question is accessible”. Considering the website was also accessible in Antwerp, the courts of Antwerp thus had territorial jurisdiction.
With this judgment, the district court –specialized in ruling on competence and jurisdiction – has brought clarity on the question which courts have territorial jurisdiction in such cases. This is important considering these types of infringements occur frequently.
CAPE IP Law
29 November 2022