RTL wins lawsuit against NH Hotels for illegal TV usage

German commercial broadcaster Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland has achieved victory in a year-long trial against Spanish hotel group NH for the illegal redistribution of its TV channels in hotel rooms.

The court of appeals in Alicante recently ruled on appeal that the use of the TV channels in hotel rooms without their consent is illegal and required the hotel chain, one of the largest in Spain, to cease the practice and pay damages.

The verdict is valid as a matter of law. The decision sets the tone for legal assessments of the use of TV signals in Spain, according to RTL.

In its opinion, the court also dealt in detail with case law of the European Court of Justice. Noting the recent decision by the European Court of Justice (‘Hettegger/Edelweiß’, case reference: C-641/15), the Spanish court ruled that TV usage in hotel rooms constitutes retransmission and is thus subject to approval, as would be case of TV usage by a cable operator.

“We expressly welcome this definitive ruling by the appeals court in Alicante. It finally makes it clear that hotels are not at liberty to use even free-TV signals received from TV broadcasters in their rooms,” said Stefan Sporn, Senior Vice President International Distribution of RTL International.

“It is important to understand that the Spanish decision and the decision by the European Court of Justice in ‘Hettegger/Edelweiss’ are not contradictory,” added Sporn. “In a preliminary ruling, the ECJ was only called upon to decide the question of whether there was a ‘communication to the public against payment of an entrance fee’. It made no determination as to whether it in fact does constitute a ‘retransmission’ subject to approval, as the appeals court has now done.”

RTL International is the subsidiary of Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland responsible for licensing the free-TV channels of the media group and of other TV broadcasters to platforms operators (cable, IP, OTT) as well as to hotels and cruise ships.