Copyright Case

Spanski v. Telewizja

Spanski Enterprises, Inc., sued Polish broadcaster, Telewizja Polska (“TV Polska”), for infringing on Spanski’s exclusive North and South American performance rights in TV Polska’s programs. Despite licensing Spanski the exclusive North and South American public performance rights to these programs, TV Polska streamed them on its video-on-demand system and failed to properly geoblock, making them accessible to North and South American internet users.

In December 2016, the District Court of the District of Columbia held TV Polska liable for directly infringing Spanki’s exclusive United States performance rights and awarded Spanski around $3 million in damages for willful infringement. TV Polska subsequently appealed on both issues of liability and infringement.

In March 2018, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld the district court’s rulings on both infringement and damages. The Court found that TV Polska’s actions clearly fell within the Copyright Act’s definition of performing a work publicly, and that “TV Polska played a more active role in performing infringing content than did Aereo,” as TV Polska “purposefully selected” the copyrighted content. The Court also concluded that even if an infringing performance originates abroad, it is still actionable if it “ultimately reaches viewers in the United States.”

Procedural History

Status: Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia affirmed. (March 2, 2018)

Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Mar. 2, 2018)

District Court for the District of Columbia (Dec. 2, 2016)

Amicus Briefs

U.S. Copyright Office