European Union: Bestwater – ECJ Forces Copyright Owners To Employ Access Restrictions

Last Updated: 7 November 2014
Article by Stephan Zimprich and Sven-Alexander Von Normann

In a long-awaited decision (not yet available in English and handed down in the form of an 'order' – allowed under the CJEU rules of procedure where "a question referred to the Court for a preliminary ruling is identical to a question on which the Court has already ruled or where the reply to such a question may be clearly deduced from existing case-law...." ), the ECJ confirmed its liberal position towards "embedding" of copyright-protected content on a third-party website in the "Bestwater" case (which had been stayed pending the outcome of the Svensson ruling). The ECJ ruled that unless the original publisher used technical access restrictions, embedded content would not reach "a new public". The effect of this judgment is likely to lead to a more restrictive publishing practice, as copyright owners will seek to avoid free-riders taking advantage of the loop-hole the court seems to have legitimised.


The Bestwater case was referred to the ECJ by the German Federal Court of Justice. It deals with a promotional video about water pollution that was produced by Bestwater International, a company that makes water filters. The film was originally published by Bestwater on its own company website and later uploaded to YouTube, allegedly without the permission or knowledge of Bestwater. The defendants, two sales representatives of a competitor of Bestwater, embedded the video on their websites, the frames pointing to YouTube. Bestwater objected to this use and sought an injunction from a German court. Bestwater's position was that the video was protected by copyright, and that the exclusive rights to use the film belonged to Bestwater. The German Federal Court of Justice referred the case to the ECJ, asking whether embedding content of a third-party website on one's own website constitutes a communication to the public within the meaning of Article 3(1) of the 2001 Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC).

After the Svensson decision (click here and here for our previous commentaries on this) which concerned framed text links, the ECJ felt that it had already put an end to the debate of embedded content on the internet and reverted back to the German Federal Court of Justice suggesting it should withdraw its submission. The German court insisted on a decision – one of the main reasons apparently being that in the Bestwater case, the YouTube video to which the defendants linked was also a copyright violation.

The ECJ did not change its mind though: embedding content from another website does not constitute a communication to the public if the original uploader did not restrict access to the content and communicated it to the whole internet community. There was no new public accessing Bestwater's video when it was embedded on the defendants' websites because when the video was uploaded on YouTube (lawfully or unlawfully), it was intended to be accessed by all those who had access to the internet. The ruling somewhat casts doubts on the technical and economic understanding of modern media publication. The ECJ´s position is that "the internet" is a medium rather than a mere technology. In other words, by analogy, a website does not compare to a particular magazine/newspaper or a TV channel, but to "print media" or "TV" in general (i.e. the relevant audience being all those who have access to magazines/newspapers (rather than a particular newspaper) and all those who have access to TVs (rather than a specific channel).


From a purely economic perspective, the decision also raises concerns as it opens up numerous possibilities to take advantage of the copyright holder. Based on this decision, it is now possible to use images or videos that are hosted on another website for one's own website by simply embedding them. Apart from using somebody else's internet bandwidth, the ECJ did not also take into account that the embedded content is presented out of context on the embedding website. For instance, advertisements displayed on the original website alongside the uploaded content may not appear on the embedding website, and the embedder may spoil an important source of revenue for the copyright owner and use third-party content for its own economic benefit. The most obvious response to this decision will be that copyright holders will need to protect their content by implementing pay-walls or other restrictive measures at the outset. The decision is not clear cut, however, and it will be interesting to see how national courts interpret this ruling and whether or not the CJEU will be called upon again to provide further clarity.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.