Tagged: freedom of expression

21 Thoughts and Questions about the UK-US CLOUD Act Agreement: (and an Explanation of How it Works – with Charts)

By Theodore Christakis [1]

  1. Introduction: The Need to Unpack the Long-Awaited UK-US Data Sharing Agreement

After four years of negotiations surrounded by secrecy, the United Kingdom and the United States finally released on October 7, 2019, the text of their Data-sharing agreement aiming to facilitate the cross-border access to electronic data for the purpose of countering serious crime. This long-awaited agreement is the first of the executive agreements envisioned by the CLOUD Act. It is, as rightly said, “critically important providing not just a window into the US and UK’s approach but also presumably setting out a basic blueprint for other agreements that may follow”. Indeed, the US and the European Union have recently begun negotiations in order to conclude an agreement in this field, while the US and Australia also announced having started similar negotiations.

The first reactions after the announcement of the UK-US Agreement, not surprisingly, have inspired mixed reviews. Jennifer Daskal and Peter Swire hailed an agreement containing “quite a few privacy and civil liberties safeguards that go beyond the text of the CLOUD Act”.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation talked, on the contrary, about “a race to the bottom” (a comment made before the publication of the text of the Agreement) while others worried about purported “Cowboy practices” (!). Whereas in the US Congressman Doug Collins lauded the Agreement, in Europe a few MEPs raised concerns about it and submitted a written question to the European Commission.

Before rushing to judgment on what this means for transatlantic law enforcement access, and, in particular, how a future EU-US agreement might differ, it is essential to understand its provisions, the safeguards, and how the mechanisms of direct access to data introduced by the Agreement will work. But “understanding” cross border data issues is not always easy and the UK-US Agreement is far from being an exception. The Agreement includes some complex mechanisms which were considered necessary in order to accommodate the distinct legal requirements of the parties. The introduction of terms such as “Receiving-Party Persons” (based on the idea of reciprocity, but with two differentiated regimes) or “US-persons” and the resulting targeting procedures envisioned by the Agreement sound somehow odd for lawyers not familiar with the subject matter, not to mention the general public. Moreover, the introduction of a system of “direct access to data” must, in general, take into account a variety of factors: the location of data is one of them; the location of the targeted persons is another; and the location of Cloud/Communication Service Providers (“CSPs”) is a third one. The combination of these factors, and the fact that multiple “locations” (and different jurisdictions) can be implicated in a request to access digital evidence, makes it sometimes difficult to determine how (or whether) various cross border demands would be treated under the agreement.

The objective of this paper will thus be, to unpack, to the extent possible, the terms of the UK-US agreement not only to understand the basic mechanisms underlying it, but also to consider what are the International Law implications and some Human Rights issues – especially from a European Law perspective. This, in turn, could help assess what could be the differences between the UK-US Agreement and the envisioned EU/US agreement on this same issue, the negotiations for which have recently kicked off. Continue reading

AG Opinion on C-18/18: Towards private regulation of speech worldwide

By Paolo Cavaliere

The case of Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook offers the opportunity for the Court of Justice to clarify the personal and material scope of monitoring obligations that may be imposed on Internet intermediaries, i.e. those private entities that ‘give access to, host, transmit and index content originated by third parties’.  The decision of the Court will determine whether domestic courts can impose monitoring obligations on digital platforms, and of what nature, and how much power courts should be given in imposing their own standards of acceptable speech across national boundaries. The opinion of the Advocate General, rendered earlier this month, raises some concerns for on-line freedom of expression because of its expansive approach to both monitoring obligations and jurisdictional limitations. Continue reading

Finding Comfort between a Rock and a Hard Place Advocate General Szpunar on striking the balance in copyright law

By Justin Jütte

Opinions in Funke Medien v Germany (Case-469/17), Pelham v Hütter (Case C-476/17), and Spiegel Online v Volker Beck (Case C-516/17)

In three Opinions that address the balance between copyright as a fundamental right and the right to freedom of expression, Advocate General Maciej Szpunar suggests that external challenges to exclusive rights under copyright law should be limited to extreme cases. In his view, the balance between different fundamental rights in copyright must be struck by the legislature in order to avoid undermining the efforts of EU harmonization.

Background

At a time where European copyright reform is hotly debated and the policy process is at a breaking point that might result in highly unsatisfactory rules or a persistent standstill in the development of EU copyright law (a brief summary of the current status can be found here., Advocate General (AG) Szpunar has been asked to deliver opinions in three preliminary references. All cases have been referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) by the German Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), the Federal Supreme Court. All three references contain similar and even partly identical questions. The essence of the preliminary references lies in the question how copyright rules should strike the balance between the interests of the right holders and users of works that are protected by copyright.

Copyright grants the author of a work the exclusive right to authorise or prohibit a number of protected acts. Such acts include, most importantly, to make reproductions of the work and to make the work available to the public (in physical and intangible form). An overly broad application of these rights could be used to completely control the use of the work, which is why copyright law foresees exceptions and limitations to the exclusive rights for certain purposes. For example, works protected by copyright, or at least parts thereof, can be used for the purposes of quotation and news reporting. At EU level, these rights and exceptions are mainly harmonized by the Information Society Directive (Directive 2001/29/EC, also ‘InfoSoc Directive’). Article 5 of the InfoSoc Directive contains one exception which Member States (MS) are obliged to implement into their national laws and 20 optional exceptions which MS are at liberty to implement. As a general rule, MS are not allowed to maintain in their copyright laws exceptions or limitations that are not contained in Article 5 (special exceptions exists for certain types of works, such as computer programs in Article 5 of Directive 2009/24/EC and original databases in Article 6 of Directive 96/9/EC); recital 32 of the Directive states that the list in Article 5 is exhaustive. There also exist so-called related rights, or neighbouring rights, which do not protect the author, but rather individuals who create, for example, sound recordings. For instance, the InfoSoc Directive and the Directive on rental and lending rights and on certain rights related to copyright in the field of intellectual property (Directive 2006/115/EC) grant producers of sound recordings similar rights to those enjoyed by authors.

This year the InfoSoc Directive turns 18, and although technology and society and the way we interact with works protected by copyright have changed, the elementary rules of copyright have remained unchanged. The longer Article 5 matured the less palatable it became for those who longed for more flexibility in the EU copyright rules. Technological developments, the Internet, social media and other modern phenomena made the list seem outdated. Exceptions and limitations struggled to  accommodate new business models and the application of new technologies that implied the reproduction, even if only for purely functional purposes, of works protected by copyright. European scholars looked with moderate envy to the US where the US fair use doctrine constitutes a flexible moderating norm that can balance the interests of right holders and users on a case-by-case basis.

Many also turned to fundamental rights as a last resort to force open the exhaustive list of Article 5. The right to freedom of expression, in particular, was used as an argument to suggest that exceptions to the exclusive rights must exist beyond the limited list of copyright exceptions of the InfoSoc Directive.

This post does not discuss in detail the analyses of AG Szpunar that pertain exclusively to the interpretation of exclusive rights and exceptions and limitations. They have already been discussed here for Pelham and here for Funke Medien  and here  and here for Spiegel Online. Instead, this contribution focuses on the balance the Advocate Generals strikes between the right to freedom of expression and the right to property within copyright law.

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European Data Protection and Freedom of Expression After Buivids: An Increasingly Significant Tension

By David Erdos

On 14 February the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) handed down its decision in Buivids, a case which pitted an amateur individual online publisher against the Latvian Data Protection Authority (DPA).  This important case raises fundamental questions concerning the scope of European data protection, the ambit of the personal/household exemption, the legal definition of journalism and the role of data protection as regards to this and also related academic, artistic and literary expression.  The Court’s answers to these questions highlight the close and tense interface between European data protection and freedom of expression.  At the same time, they provide only relatively limited insight as to how the serious tension between data protection, special expression and freedom of expression more broadly should be resolved.  What they do suggest, however, is that not only national legislators but also courts and regulators have active and important roles toplay within this space.  The full implications of this, as well as further guidance on how to balance data protection and special expression, should be provided in the forthcoming case of Stunt which will require the Court to consider whether national courts should disapply the ban on pre-publication injunctions against special expression processing which is set out in UK data protection legislation.  In addition, Grand Chamber CJEU judgments on internet search engines and data protection are awaited both in relation to sensitive data and the geographical reach of any remedy here.  In sum, slowly but surely, an albeit messy corpus of European jurisprudence on data protection and freedom of expression is in the process of gestation. Continue reading

A FRAGMENTATION OF EU/ECHR LAW ON MASS SURVEILLANCE: INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE BIG BROTHER WATCH JUDGMENT

By Theodore Christakis

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued an important, highly anticipated judgment, condemning the United Kingdom for its mass surveillance program.

Following Edward Snowden’s revelations regarding the United States-United Kingdom intelligence surveillance and intelligence sharing programme, 16 organizations and individuals (including the NGO Big Brother Watch) filed an application against the United Kingdom before the ECtHR. The 212page-long judgment published on September 13, 2018 is rich and deals with a great variety of important issues. Several among them are directly linked to some major legal questions examined in the past by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) or currently pending before it – not to mention the ongoing debate about whether the EU-US data transfer agreement known as Privacy Shield provides an “adequate level of protection”. The objective of this piece is to provide some first thoughts focusing on the strategic place of this judgment in the European legal landscape. Continue reading