27 mai 2012

ECtHR: fixing structutal problems annuls previous violations of human rights, Altunay, 42936/07

Mr Mehmet Altunay acquired land of 603 m2 for agricultural purposes in Turkey in 1999 (§ 3). However in 2007 the Turkish Court of Cassation annulled the title to property: the administration made a mistake in recognising him this property, since it was a State forest. He didn’t receive any compensation and filed an application to the European Court of Human Rights. In 2009 the Turkish Court of Cassation amended its case law in recognising the right to compensation.

Mr Altunay argued that the fact of violation shall be determined at the time the respective facts took place, i.e. as it was in 2007. The Strasbourg judges dismissed the action in explaining that fixing a structural problem annuls all previous violations of human rights (§ 33), and proposed him to apply for compensation at home. The ECtHR reasoning is very practical: too many applications.

19 mai 2012

Ombudsman: European Commission may change the interpretation of financial rules applicable to its grant receivers during the execution of contract, 286/2011/RT

A small Romanian enterprise that had received 2 grants for projects under the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development filed a complaint against the European Commission to the European Ombudsman. The enterprise argued that the Commission had replaced the 2007 Financial Guidelines with the 2010 Financial Guidelines during the execution of the projects. The new version of the Guidelines required fulfillment of cumulative criteria for eligibility of staff costs, which led, after audit, to the necessity to recover a part of the grants (§ 25).

The Ombudsman replied that the 2010 version “simply clarified the conditions” that existed at the moment of signing the contracts (§ 34). It was stated in the 2007 version that “this Guide has been conceived as an evolving document which, it is intended, will be updated regularly (in principle every 6 months) […]” (§ 36). Thus, no maladministration was found.

12 mai 2012

ECtHR refuses to apply ECJ judgment because it was unforeseeable, Ioviţoni, 57583/10

Romania introduced a pollution tax for the first registration of a car. In this manner, if you buy a second hand car in Romania (i.e. the car has already been registered in Romania), you do not pay any pollution tax. However when you bring a second hand car from another EU State (like Germany), you must pay the pollution tax. On 07/04/2011 the European Court of Justice found in case Tatu, C-402/09, that this was indirect trade discrimination against sellers from other EU States contrary to Article 110 TFEU (§ 33).

In 2010, previously to the ECJ judgment, commercial company Holtzver SRL and others tried to get the pollution tax back, but the Romanian Appellate Courts dismissed their actions (§§ 9, 13). The victims of trade discrimination could not file a claim directly to the ECJ. Therefore, the company wished to prove the breach of property rights before the European Court of Human Rights.

The ECtHR declared the applications inadmissible, since the ECJ judgment “had not been evident” (§ 49).

3 mai 2012

ECJ liberates software functionality and programming language from copyrights, SAS Institute, C-406/10

The SAS Institute Inc. sued the World Programming Ltd. in the UK for infringing its copyright in analytical software. World Programming copied the manuals for the SAS System when creating the “World Programming System” (§ 27). However the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Justice found yesterday that software functionality and programming language are not literary or artistic works, and therefore not covered with copyrights.

The judges made a policy argument in writing that functionality copyrights would make it possible to monopolise ideas to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development (§ 40). The Grand Chamber referred to point 3.7 of the explanatory memorandum to the Proposal for Directive 91/250 stating that only the individual expression of the work should be protected, and leaving other authors the latitude to create even identical programs provided that they refrain from copying (§ 41).

The SAS Institute tried to use the proportionality remedy in arguing that the copyright should be protected at least to some degree having regard to the nature or extent of the copied functionality, to the skills, judgment and labour which had been expended, and to the level of detail reproduced (§ 28). However this attack was dismissed as such.