It's kind of ironic that the European Commission, a proponent of the international trade agreement to enforce intellectual property rights, is being slapped with a fine of 12 million euros for infringing on the copyrights of a software company.
A European Union court has ruled against the European Commission, the EU's own executive branch, over a years-long case involving the alteration of a language translation software system created by a French company.
And as if the fine - nearly $15.8 million - isn't enough, the court ruled that the company could bring another complaint against the commission if it fails to protect the company's copyright in the future. Finally, the court also said that the press release about the judgement is to be considered "a form of non-pecuniary compensation for the non-material damage caused by the harm to Systran’s reputation as a result of the Commission’s unlawful conduct."
At issue was a language translation system that was built by Systran specifically for the EC and managed by Systran from 1997-2002. Later, the EC hired a third-party company to alter, revise and update the system without the consent of Systran, arguing that Systran "had not produced ‘probative documents’ capable of establishing the rights which Systran might claim" and adding that the company had no right to object to the alteration work.
The court, however, disagreed. From the court's press release:
...the Commission acted unlawfully by infringing the general principles common to the law of the Member States applicable to copyright and know-how. That wrongful act, which is a sufficiently serious breach of the copyright and know-how held by the Systran group in the Systran Unix version of the Systran software, gives rise to non-contractual liability on the part of the European Union.
Broken down, the EU is being fined 7 million Euros in fees that the EC should have paid to Systran between 2004 and 2010 for permission to alter its intellectual property and another 5 million Euros "as compensation for the effect which the Commission’s conduct might have had on Systran’s turnover in the years 2004 to 2010, and more widely on the development of that company. The court also fined the EC another 1,000 Euros as compensation for non-material damage.
The court said that an appeal, limited to points of law only, may be filed within two months.