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Canal+ scores major court victory in Paramount film licencing deal

Canal+ CEO Maxime Saada

Vivendi-owned French pay TV operator Canal+ has won a court battle to stop Paramount Pictures from strapping film-licencing deals with Sky in the UK.

The case goes back to 2016, with the ViacomCBS-owned Paramount agreeing to scrap its licencing deals in order to end an investigation from the EU. The European Commission considered the pledge as a major victory on a crackdown on geoblocking.

Canal+ however objected to the agreement, as it, in effect, killed the ability for EU broadcasters to do licencing deals with studios. The company argued that this breached third-party rights and contract rights.

The operator’s case was emboldened three years later when Disney, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros and Sky TV struck a similar deal to Paramount with the Commission.

The case was initially brought to the Luxembourg General Court – the second-highest court in Europe – on the grounds that the Paramount deal violated the interests and procedural rights of third parties. Canal+ also argued that its own agreement with Paramount was justified by intellectual property laws, but this lost.

However, Canal+ has now managed a victory following an appeal to the EU Court of Justice.

Ruling on the case, the judges said: “By adopting the decision at issue, the Commission rendered the contractual rights of the third parties meaningless, including the contractual rights of Groupe Canal + vis-à-vis Paramount, and thereby infringed the principle of proportionality, with the result that the decision at issue must be annulled.”