The energy giant failed in its fight with the environmental association. No misuse of its work, according to the court

ČEZ sued Greenpeace, which, in its opinion, misused its advertising spot. While it found a defence in the court of first instance, both the court of second instance and the Supreme Court found in favour of Greenpeace. The Constitutional Court then brought a comprehensive and detailed interpretation of what freedom of expression entails, when a new work is created and what its protection is. And it upheld the right to satire by an environmental association.

Energetika, ekologický spolek, ČEZ
6 minutes of reading

The crux of the dispute was an edited version of the CEZ advertising spot entitled “Lighting of Christmas Trees”. Greenpeace altered the original spot by adding footage of damaged, dry and deforested forests and forest fires. In addition, it added its comment that ČEZ is harming the environment through its activities.

Are you facing a legal problem that is beyond your capabilities and does not fall under any of our legal services?

We will assess your case and draft a proposal for legal services to resolve it within 24 hours. If you then decide to entrust its solution in our hands, you have the drafting of the proposal free of charge.

ČEZ did not agree with such a modification of its spot and decided to defend itself against the misuse of the advertising clip. And it succeeded. At least in the first instance, when the Municipal Court in Prague ordered the environmental organization to refrain from unauthorized use of the spot and ČEZ to apologize. In its decision, the Municipal Court generally admitted the use of the statutory licence, but not in this case. according to the court, the “work” created by the association did not meet the definition of a new work and was merely a misuse of the original work in order to disparage ČEZ.

The High Court in Prague took a different view and dismissed ČEZ’s claim. According to the court, the modified commercial is ironic in relation to the original version. It also stressed freedom of speech. The Supreme Court also rejected the company’s appeal as it did not find it admissible.

The Constitutional Court concluded the case with similar reasoning, according to which humour, exaggeration, irony and sarcasm are a necessary part of social dialogue and contribute to the free exchange of views. Such expressions are therefore protected by freedom of expression, provided that they do not exceed generally accepted rules of decency.

Conversely, interference with the freedom of such speech must be viewed with caution. This is thus again a variation on the classic constitutional law theme of a conflict between two fundamental rights or values.
In particular, the Constitutional Court has stressed the need to examine speech in its entirety and not in isolation. It therefore makes a difference, in its view, whether it is a written text, a comic strip or a spot. What is also relevant is its intention, i.e. whether, for example, the resulting work contributes to the public debate on social issues or, on the contrary, is merely directed towards hatred. In the latter case, such speech could not stand under the protection of freedom of expression.

According to the Constitutional Court, it was clear from the outset, upon viewing the altered spot, that it was not an official advertisement of ČEZ, but an effort by someone else to draw attention to the environmental impact of its activities. Moreover, a company of such size and importance is obliged to bear a tolerable level of criticism of its activities, which, moreover, do have a significant impact on the environment. In an earlier decision, the Constitutional Court quoted Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who prophetically stated that “social man lives constantly outside himself, knows no other life than that in the opinion of others, and only from their judgment does he gain a sense of his own existence.” The psychological skills of self-distance, self-irony, and generally a sense of humor help one to get out of this “fishing rod.” By contrast, judicial decisions in similar cases decreeing de facto what people can still laugh at or what is already obscene and offensive would, in the vast majority of cases, constitute an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. It is primarily for the public, and not the courts, to take a position on a particular political cartoon and whether the author’s assessment of a particular situation is in poor taste or, on the contrary, humorous and persuasive.

A significant moment in the new decision was the statutory licence and the Supreme Court’s interpretation of it, which departed from the law to some extent. Although the statutory licence for caricature and parody should, according to the (explicit) wording of the law, apply only to copyright, the Supreme Court held that it can be similarly applied to copyright-related rights. Thus, a parody may also consist of altering an audiovisual work by inserting new footage.

In this context, the Constitutional Court added that the court may (and must) deviate from the literal wording of the law in certain circumstances. It may do so only if the purpose of the law, the history of its creation, its systematic coherence or one of the fundamental principles of the legal order requires it.

The Constitutional Court’s finding was remarkable in another respect, namely, in explaining the meaning of parody, exaggeration and humour, it quoted some famous classics, including Umberto Eco, who, through the hero of the novel The Name of the Rose, William of Baskerville, contradicts the librarian Jorge’s view that ‘laughter is the weakness, the corruption and the flabbiness of our body. It is the consolation of peasants, the exuberance of drunkards; even the Church in its wisdom has instituted moments of festivity, carnival and fair, those daily pollutions which expel excess of drink from the body and protect it from other desires and other ambitions. But so laughter remains something low, the defence of the common people, desecrated by the mystery for the rabble.” To this William of Baskerville says: “They have lied to you, the devil is not the ruler of matter, the devil is the presumption of the spirit, faith without a smile, the truth that is never seized by doubt. The devil is frowning because he knows where he is going, and he is always going where he came from.” It may be added that humour, satire and parody are life-giving, not only in ordinary life but also in public life, because they can reduce social tension.

We can also highlight a quote from Václav Havel, who in an essay on the nature of Czechoslovak dissent writes:“…whoever takes himself too seriously soon becomes ridiculous, and whoever can constantly laugh at himself cannot be truly ridiculous.

Are you solving a similar problem?

Dostupný advokát team of online lawyers will solve it for you.

Consultation with a lawyer

Looking for an answer to a specific legal question? Email us and you will have an answer from one of our attorneys within 48 hours. We have specialists in all areas of law and guarantee the high level of expertise of our attorneys.

Preset Prices
All services pre-priced for no surprises.
We Do Everything Online
Save time, money and the hassle of travel.
We Work Fast
90 % of issues get solved by the following day.
Experienced Team
We have specialists for every field of law.

Has this content helped you? Give it a rating

No rating yet. Be first to rate and help others.

Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

Education
  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

Reviews of the Dostupný advokát service

Recenze služby

Jan Vrátný, Veselí nad Lužnicí

before 3 years

I work as a self-employed craftsman and I know my field very well. Unexpected events happen, however, and I sometimes have to deal with problems where I need quality legal advice. I don’t like calling legal offices, getting sucked into discussions with terms I don’t understand. Dostupnyadvokat.cz is different. My first time, they replied immediately (zobrazit více) and together we created a contract custom tailored to my exact needs. I continue to be very happy with both their work and their price.

Recenze služby

Tomáš Hrdlička, Nové Strašecí

before 3 years

I felt very uncomfortable meeting an attorney in person. But Dostupný advokát managed to solve everything for me online. I bought a consultation because my employer had sent me for a long term business trip to an exotic country with no explanation, and I wanted to be sure what my rights in this situation were. (zobrazit více) The Skype consultation was very pleasant and the service was fast. I can fully recommend them.

Recenze služby

Ms Magic, Google reviews

before 3 years

Fast and professional solutions for most normal legal needs at affordable, preset prices. Seriously, what could be better than that? While it sounds ‘too good to be true,’ I’m happy to report that the staff at DA are pros, and what’s more they are honestly dedicated to their awesome mission, which is to make quality (zobrazit více) Fast and professional solutions for most normal legal needs at affordable, preset prices. Seriously, what could be better than that? While it sounds ‘too good to be true,’ I’m happy to report that the staff at DA are pros, and what’s more they are honestly dedicated to their awesome mission, which is to make quality legal services affordable for the average person. I find their prices very fair when compared to what I’ve usually paid for similar services, which means I (and my family and friends) can get the legal help I need without worrying about some black hole of never-ending fees. In my own experience with DA I’ve found everyone there very responsive, and emails and calls are answered in a timely manner. Their large staff also gives me confidence that any legal needs I have can be handled professionally, as there’s always someone with experience in my particular issue. Their head attorney also writes a regular blog and keeps up with all the latest legal trends, which means they as a business stay up-to-date. As someone who’s spent a fortune over the years on legal assistance, or tried to “go it alone” when I couldn’t afford legal help, I wish Dostupny Advokat had been around a long time ago. I highly encourage anyone who needs legal help to TRY THEM FIRST!

View All Testimonials

You could also be interested in

About us in public media
Logo Česká advokátní komora Logo Advokátní kancelář roku 2023 a 2024
Follow the news
Facebook Dostupný advokát Twitter / X Dostupný advokát