The case arose because the plaintiff in the main proceedings, Laserdisken, sells DVDs in Denmark. Laserdisken sold all kinds of DVDs, including original American editions and a wide range of films which were not otherwise available in Europe. But then Article 4 (2) of the Directive provided that the distribution right shall not be exhausted within the Community in respect of the original or copies of the work, except where the first sale or other transfer of ownership in the Community of that object is made by the rightholder or with his consent. In fact, Article 4 (2) had a major impact on Laserdisken's trade in non-EU DVDs. As a result, Laserdisken sued the Danish Ministry responsible for implementing the Directive and claimed, among other things, that the Directive breached the right of freedom of expression because citizens were deprived of their right to receive information in breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Court rejected Laserdisken's claims and upheld the validity of Directive 2001/29 because it helped to protect copyright.
The Court held that freedom of expression is a fundamental right the observance of which is ensured by the EC courts (see Case C-260/89 ERT, paragraph 44). But, if the exhaustion rule laid down in Article 4(2) of the Directive does restrict that freedom to some extent, the Court pointed out that Article 10(2) of the ECHR allows the freedoms guaranteed by Article 10(1) ECHR to be limited for certain reasons in the public interest, including the protection of intellectual property rights like copyright.