Tagged: freedom of expression

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