Bird & Bird's Brussels Competition team has successfully secured the annulment of the European Commission's controversial allegation of a concerted practice in the 2008 "CISAC" decision. This is the team's second major victory at the General Court in three weeks.
In 2008 the Commission held that the European collecting societies' network of reciprocal representation agreements, by which each society enforced the online rights of the other societies' repertoires in their home country, constituted a concerted practice in violation of Article 101(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. According to the Commission, this practice restricted competition by preventing the grant of Europe-wide licences.
Last Friday, the General Court of the EU quashed this finding on the grounds that the Commission had failed to provide sufficient evidence of collusion between the collecting societies. According to the Court, the Commission also failed to disprove the collecting societies' argument that the behaviour was explained by rational business considerations rather than collusion. In this respect, the Court agreed with the applicants that each collecting society is typically best placed to enforce the rights in its own jurisdiction.
José Rivas, Head of International EU and Competition Group, Bird & Bird said: "This is a great result for PRS for Music. The 2008 decision created huge legal uncertainty for our client as it was very difficult to implement. On Friday, the Court reminded the Commission that it cannot qualify just any parallel behaviour as anticompetitive collusion.
"Moreover, as our second General Court victory in just three weeks, it further demonstrates our Competition teams' unparalleled expertise in litigating before the EU Courts."
Jonathan Aitken, Head of Competition & International Affairs, PRS for Music said: “We are very pleased that the Court has confirmed PRS’s long standing position that it did not participate in any concerted practice. We received an excellent service from Bird & Bird and our position was argued tirelessly by José and his team throughout the proceedings.”
The full text of the judgement is available here.