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Copyright assignment contracts and contractual balance

Civil Superior Court, Section I, 06/10/2020, n. 21498, Pres. Francesco Antonio Genovese, Est. Giulia Iofrida)

date: 19.10.2020
Area: Intellectual Property

In a recent ruling, the Superior Court ruled on a matter concerning a copyright assignment contract. In this case, the heir of a well-known composer was suing a publishing company for the termination of a contract concerning the assignment of economic exploitation rights of certain musical compositions, due to the defendant’s serious breach of contract.

The Court pointed out that, in assessing the seriousness of the breach of contract, it was necessary to take into account not only the subjective element, i.e. the procedural and extra-procedural conduct of the defendant publishing house, but also the objective element consisting in the impact of the breach on the overall economy of the contractual relationship. In the present case, the Superior Court held that the Court of merit had correctly evaluated all the circumstances that emerged, both objective and subjective, from which it was possible to deduce the alteration of the contractual balance, such as, for example, the extent of the obligations not fulfilled by the publisher.

Moreover, the Court clarified that the contract for music publishing, for the assignment of copyright, is an atypical contract to which only the provisions of Articles 107-114 of Law 133/1941 on copyright apply, and not Art. 119 on the contract for the transfer of rights to use the work: the latter provision is, in fact, applicable only to publishing contracts, with reference to printed publications, so that “the decision of the dispute on the rights and obligations of the parties is resolved in a “quaestio voluntatis” which is largely left to the interpretation of the judge on the merits, which cannot be reviewed at the time of legitimacy and has been adequately justified”.

Copyright assignment contracts and contractual balance

Civil Superior Court, Section I, 06/10/2020, n. 21498, Pres. Francesco Antonio Genovese, Est. Giulia Iofrida)

date: 19.10.2020
Area: Intellectual Property

In a recent ruling, the Superior Court ruled on a matter concerning a copyright assignment contract. In this case, the heir of a well-known composer was suing a publishing company for the termination of a contract concerning the assignment of economic exploitation rights of certain musical compositions, due to the defendant’s serious breach of contract.

The Court pointed out that, in assessing the seriousness of the breach of contract, it was necessary to take into account not only the subjective element, i.e. the procedural and extra-procedural conduct of the defendant publishing house, but also the objective element consisting in the impact of the breach on the overall economy of the contractual relationship. In the present case, the Superior Court held that the Court of merit had correctly evaluated all the circumstances that emerged, both objective and subjective, from which it was possible to deduce the alteration of the contractual balance, such as, for example, the extent of the obligations not fulfilled by the publisher.

Moreover, the Court clarified that the contract for music publishing, for the assignment of copyright, is an atypical contract to which only the provisions of Articles 107-114 of Law 133/1941 on copyright apply, and not Art. 119 on the contract for the transfer of rights to use the work: the latter provision is, in fact, applicable only to publishing contracts, with reference to printed publications, so that “the decision of the dispute on the rights and obligations of the parties is resolved in a “quaestio voluntatis” which is largely left to the interpretation of the judge on the merits, which cannot be reviewed at the time of legitimacy and has been adequately justified”.