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Spanski Enterprises, Inc. v. Telewizja Polska, S.A.

883 F.3d 904 (2018)

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Spanski Enterprises, Inc. v. Telewizja Polska, S.A.

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

883 F.3d 904 (2018)

Facts

Telewizja Polska, S.A. (TV Polska) (plaintiff), a Polish broadcasting company, entered a licensing agreement with Spanski Enterprises, Inc. (defendant), a Canadian broadcasting company, granting Spanski the exclusive right to broadcast certain of TV Polska’s television programs in North and South America. The licensing agreement included internet broadcasts. Spanski then acquired valid United States copyright registrations for the television programs subject to the licensing agreement. TV Polska had an online video-on-demand system that allowed internet users to view TV Polska content. TV Polska placed territorial restrictions, called geoblocks, on its video-on-demand system to prevent users in North and South America from accessing content licensed to Spanski. However, several years later, Spanski discovered that 51 episodes subject to the licensing agreement had been reformatted to remove the geoblocking and were accessible to users in the United States through TV Polska’s video-on-demand service. Spanski sued TV Polska in United States federal district court, alleging infringement of its exclusive right to publicly perform, or publicly broadcast, those 51 episodes in the United States. After a bench trial, the district court held TV Polska liable under the Copyright Act for willfully infringing on Spanski’s exclusive public-performance rights by removing the geoblocking on the 51 episodes and making them available to American viewers. TV Polska appealed, arguing that (1) holding it liable for infringement was an impermissible extraterritorial application of the Copyright Act because the videos were hosted and reformatted in Poland; and (2) any infringement liability should be assigned to the American users who accessed the videos in the United States.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Tatel, J.)

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