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Which courts are empowered to hear copyright disputes?
Under Greek law, copyright disputes are heard before the civil courts. In the civil courts of Athens, of Thessaloniki and of Piraeus there are divisions that are specialised in trying copyright issues. The value and nature of the claims will determine whether the magistrate, single member or multi-member civil court are the most competent to try the case in the first instance.
What acts constitute copyright infringement in your jurisdiction (including with regard to online and digital content)?
Copyright infringement is not expressly defined in Law 4481/2017. Any act involving subject matter which is identical to that of a copyright or related right – to the extent that they are protected by law and insofar as the act is not undertaken by the beneficiary or following their consent and does not fall within the limitations or restrictions stipulated in the law – constitutes copyright infringement.
The exploitation of economic rights resulting from the work, including the right to reproduction, adaptation and communication to the public, without the author’s consent (eg, republishing an article) or in violation of moral rights (eg, improper attribution in a photograph) are examples of copyright infringement. This applies both to offline and online digital works.
Is contributory infringement recognised in your jurisdiction (including liability for internet services providers and other online/digital actors)?
Greek copyright law recognises contributory (ie, secondary) infringement. In particular, under Law 4481/2017, the circumvention of technological measures that are applied to ensure that preparatory and contributory actions for copyright infringement are prevented constitutes secondary infringement and could induce perpetrator’s liability (both civil and criminal), while administrative penalties may be further imposed.
In this context, the manufacture, import, distribution, sale, rental, advertisement for sale or rental, or possession for commercial purposes of devices, products or components or the provision of services which are primarily designed, produced, adapted or performed for the purpose of enabling or facilitating the circumvention of any effective technological measures are also deemed to be contributory infringements.
Greek copyright law sets out the liability of intermediaries (eg, internet service providers) whose services are used by a third party to infringe a copyright, related right or the right of a database maker. Infringement may consist of unlicensed work presented on a website or be effected through illegal file sharing (eg, using a peer-to-peer network).
In any event, internet service providers are given a limited safe harbour from monetary damages under Article 14 of the EU E-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) where their services are used to host infringing content.
Other acts which facilitate copyright infringement do not qualify as infringement per se, but fall under general civil law provisions on tort law.
What actions can be taken against copyright infringement (eg, civil, criminal or administrative), and what are the key features and requirements of each?
Civil actions can be taken against copyright infringement and depending on the circumstances, infringers may face additional criminal penalties and administrative fines.
Rights holders in civil actions must be able to prove their rights and adduce reasonably available and sufficient evidence to substantiate any allegations of infringement or imminent infringement.
Criminal penalties are stipulated in Article 66 of Law 4481/2017. Article 66 details all types of offence and lists, among other things, penalties for:
- violating copyright, related rights and database rights;
- circumventing technical measures; and
- the unauthorised use of software programs.
The prosecution of these criminal offences takes place ex officio – no criminal complaint is required to be filed. In any case, the owner of the infringed rights is entitled to declare the civil standing through the criminal proceedings. Criminal liability presupposes wilful intent – in other words, the perpetrator’s awareness of the elements of and their will to commit the offence. Criminal liability exists even where the perpetrator objectively foresees the possibility of the act causing the infringement and persists regardless.
Administrative fines may be imposed in the event of the unlawful reproduction, sale or distribution to the public or possession with the intent of distribution of a computer program or in the event that street vendors or standing persons are caught distributing to the public – by sale or other means – or possessing with the intention of distributing sound recordings on which a work protected by copyright law has been recorded. The imposition of fines takes place ex officio.
Who can file a copyright infringement action?
Copyright infringement actions can be brought before the courts by the author or the author’s universal successors, as well as their special successors (ie, assignee or licensee). In the latter case, if the granted licence is non-exclusive, there must be proof that the enforcement rights have been assigned to the licensee. Further, the collective licensing body that is competent for managing the author’s exploitation rights is also entitled to invoke and assert said claims.
What is the statute of limitations for filing infringement actions?
The timeframe for bringing an action before the courts greatly depends on the cause of the invoked claim. For example, compensation claims relating to IP rights or related rights infringement must be raised within five years following the point of knowledge of the unlawful act and in any case within 20 years from the act being committed. The same timeframe applies to cease and desist claim, as well as moral damages claims. However, claims based on unjustified enrichment are subject to 20-year limitation.
What is the usual timeframe for infringement actions?
In principle, litigant parties have 115 days from the date on which an infringement action is filed to submit briefs and means of evidence. This timeframe is extended by 30 days if the defendant or one of its counterparts resides abroad or has an unknown residence. Following this, the case file is closed. It then takes approximately 14 to 20 months for a decision to be issued, depending on factors such as the judge’s workload, case complexity and amount of evidence adduced.
What are the typical costs incurred in infringement actions?
Infringement proceeding costs vary from case to case, often depending on the legal and factual circumstances and the value of the subject matter. Typical costs include those pertaining to evidence gathering and attorneys’ fees.
How are attorneys’ fees handled? Can they be claimed in infringement actions?
Attorneys’ fees are borne by each litigant party with regard to its own legal representation. A minor part thereof (ie, statutory fees) is included in the judicial costs that the defeated party is in principle obliged to pay towards the winning party. Theoretically, the attorneys’ fees could be claimed in their entirety in separate compensation actions, yet said action is unlikely to be admitted, since the court would probably consider only the legal fees prescribed in the law.
What rules and procedures govern the issuance of injunctions to prevent imminent or further infringement?
In the event of imminent or further infringement, interim injunctions are available, including precautionary seizure, inventory or photographing of items allegedly infringing IP rights or preliminary measures for preventing future infringement where imminent danger exists. There is no need to specify the works infringed or work under threat of infringement. Where infringement is committed in a commercially notably scale, the competent court may order the seizure of the assets of the alleged infringer and the freezing of their bank accounts. The court may order the aforementioned measures under the condition that the applicant pays a guarantee as determined by the injunction.
What remedies are available to owners of infringed copyrights?
Rights holders may claim:
- the recognition of authorship;
- the cessation of the infringement; and
- the abstention from infringement in future.
The cessation of the infringement entails:
- recalling the infringing goods from commercial channels and, where appropriate, recalling the materials used in manufacturing these goods;
- permanently withdrawing the infringing goods from trade; or
- destroying the infringing goods.
Moreover, rights holders are entitled to claim compensation and moral damages. Instead of compensation and regardless of whether the infringement was committed by intent or negligence, the author or rights holder of the related right may demand either:
- the payment of the sum accrued by the infringing party from the unlicensed exploitation of a work or the object of a related right; or
- the profit gained by the infringing party from such an exploitation.
What customs enforcement measures are available to halt the import or export of pirated works?
EU Customs Enforcement Regulation (608/2013) applies and permits national customs authorities to seize goods that seem to infringe on IP rights upon the rights holder’s request.
What defences are available to infringers?
Law 4481/2017 sets out exceptions relating to rights holders’ exploitation powers, which can be invoked against an infringement claim. For example, there are cases where the use of a copyrighted work is permissible without the rights holder’s consent and sometimes even without paying royalties, including:
- reproducing work for private use;
- quoting extracts of lawfully published works;
- reproducing lawfully published work in educational textbooks;
- reproducing lawfully published literary works in anthologies after the author's death;
- reproducing lawfully published articles in newspapers or journals;
- reproducing lawfully published short extracts of a work or parts of a short work or a lawfully published work of fine art, exclusively for teaching or examination purposes at an educational establishment;
- reproductions for libraries and archives;
- reproductions for judicial, administrative or information purposes;
- occasional reproduction and communication by the mass media of images of architectural works, fine art works, photographs or works of applied art, which are sited permanently in a public place;
- certain permitted uses of orphan works;
- exhibitions and reproductions by museums of works of fine art; and
- reproductions for the benefit of blind, deaf or mute persons.
In any case, Law 4481/2017 explicitly states that limitations can be applied only in certain special cases, provided that they do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work or other protected subject matter or unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder.
In addition to the above, exemptions from the right of reproduction apply to temporary acts of reproduction that are transient or incidental and constitute an integral and essential part of a technological process with the sole purpose of enabling:
- a transmission in a network between third parties by an intermediary; or
- a lawful use of a work or other protected subject matter which has no independent economic significance.
What is the appeal procedure for infringement decisions?
Each litigant party is granted a right of appeal. The appeal can be brought on any grounds relating to the legal basis, for example, wrongly interpreted legal provisions as well as to case merits, or where the adduced means of evidence are erroneously evaluated.
According to the Code of Civil Procedure, appellants residing in Greece have 30 days to file an appeal; appellants residing abroad or whose residence is unknown have 60 days. In both cases, the deadline commences from the date on which the decision terminating the trial in the first instance is served.