TV ads break copyright law

Swedish television channel TV4 infringed the copyright of filmmakers Claes Eriksson and the recently deceased Vilgot Sjöman by inserting commercial breaks in their films, said the Svea Court of Appeal on Wednesday.

Eriksson and Sjöman have now won twice – after Stockholm district court found in their favour in December 2004.

The directors sued TV4 for the commercial breaks that were inserted when the channel screened Sjöman’s ‘Alfred’ and Eriksson’s ‘Hajen som visste för mycket’ (The shark who knew too much).

The Court of Appeal upheld the district court’s verdict, prompting jubilation on Wednesday as the announcement was made.

The court had to decide which of two Swedish laws took precedence – the copyright law protecting an individual’s work, or the radio and TV law which gives TV4 the right to insert three or four ad breaks in films.

By broadcasting advertisements during breaks in the directors’ films, the court said, TV4 had altered the films and infringed the copyright holders’ distinctive character.

Since losing the case in the district court, TV4 has inserted a new clause in all agreements with Swedish directors, making it clear that there will be ad breaks in films screened.

Nevertheless, the appeal court’s verdict means that TV4 must now pay the directors’ legal costs of almost half a million kronor. Together with the court costs the total bill for TV4 will be around 1.1 million kronor.

The Court of Appeal’s verdict was unanimous.

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TT/The Local