Tag Archives: European Parliament

Copyright European Legislation: Getting Ready for the Digital Era.

On September 12th the European Parliament approved amendments to the controversial Proposal for a Copyright Directive, the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, which aims at updating copyright rules.

Not many topics have polarized opinions in recent years in Europe. While supporters claim to have protected artists and to have inflicted a blow to the American tech giants, critics have talked about the “death of the internet”.

For clarity, even if the Directive passed the European Parliament vote, the changes are not yet definitive and it may be too early to conclude on what this decision entails. The Directive text shall be further reviewed in subsequent negotiations and there is still a slight chance that it may be rejected at another vote by the European Parliament in 2019. In addition, the Directive, even if (and when) definitely approved, should be implemented by single Member States.

But which results does the Directive aim to achieve?

Its scope and purpose appear based on the evolution of digital technologies, which has changed the way copyright works and other protected material are created, produced, distributed and exploited, with the consequence that new uses, new payers and new business models have emerged. The digital environment has given birth to new opportunities for customers to access copyright-protected content. In this new framework, right-holders face difficulties to be remunerated for the online distribution of their works. So, even if the objectives and principles laid down by the EU copyright framework remain valid, there is an undeniable need to adapt them to the new reality.

The Directive also intends to avoid the risk of fragmentation of rules in the internal market. In fact, the Digital Single Market Strategy1 adopted in May 2015 identified the need «to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and allow for wider online access to works by users across the EU». The idea expressed in the 2015 by the European Commission was to «move towards a modern, more European copyright framework». The EU legislation purports to harmonize exceptions and limitations to copyright and connected rights, however some of these exceptions, which aim at achieving public policy objectives, such as research or education, remain regulated on national level, with the consequence that legal certainty around cross-border uses is not guaranteed.

As to the content of the Directive, we note the following points:

  • With specific regard to the scientific research, recital number 9 of the Directive says that the Union has already provided certain exceptions and limitations (even if optional and not fully adapted to the use of technology in the scientific research) covering uses for scientific research purposes which may apply to acts of text and data mining. Where researcher have lawful access to content, for example through subscription to publication or open access licenses, the term of the licenses may exclude text and data mining.
  • Article 11, called “link tax”, gives publishers a right to ask for paid licenses when online platforms share their stories. The amended version clarifies that this new rights «shall not prevent legitimate private and non-commercial use of press publications by individual users». The amendment tries also to clarify what can be considered as “sharing a story”, indicating that the mere hyperlinks cannot be taxed, nor can individual words.
  • Article 13, called by the critics as “upload filter”, sets forth that platforms storing and giving access to large amounts of works uploaded by their users shall conclude licensing agreements that include liability for copyright infringement, thus putting a large responsibility on platforms and copyright holders that must «cooperate in good faith» to stop this infringement by carefully monitoring every upload.

The Directive has been designed with the intent to rebalance the core problem of contemporary web: big platforms like Facebook and Google are making huge amounts of money providing access to material made by other people. Nevertheless critics object that this intent could lead to serious collateral effects.

We will see what the future of this Directive will be, and which consequences will entail. The path seems to be still long, but, at least, it has started.

 

Artificial intelligence and robotics: a report reflects on legal issues

With its report issued on May 31, 2016 by the European Parliament (“Report”), the European Union has stepped into the debate on how to deal with artificial intelligence and robotics (“AI&R”). The ultimate goal of the European Parliament is to set forth a common legal framework that may avoid discrepancies arising from different national legislations, which would otherwise create obstacles to an effective development of robotics.

The Report introduces ethical principles concerning the development of AI&R for civil use and proposes a Charter on Robotics, composed by a Code of Ethical Conduct for Robotics Engineers, a Code for Research Ethics Committees and Licenses for Designers and Users.

Furthermore, the Report suggests the creation of a European Agency for AI&R, having an adequate budget, which would be able to generate the necessary technical, ethical and regulatory expertise. Such agency would monitor research and development activities in order to be able to recommend regulatory standards and address customer protection issues in these fields.

The Report, which recommends to the Commission to prepare a proposal of directive on civil law rules on robotics, illustrates many of the issues that society could face in a few decades regarding the relationship between humans and humanoids. In fact, a wide range of robots already can, and could even more in the future, affect people’s life in their roles as care robots, medical robots, human repair and enhancement robots, doctor training robots, and so on.

A further development that may be concerning for lawyers is connected to the announcement, a few days ago, by the University College London that a computer has been able to predict, through a machine-learning algorithm, the decisions by the European Court of Human Rights with a 79% accuracy. Will this result in a more automatic and predictable application of the law?

In order to secure the highest degree of professional competence possible, as well as to protect patients’ health when AI&R is used in the health field, the Report recommends to strengthen legal and regulatory measures such as data protection and data ownership, standardization, safety and security.

One concern arising from the Report is civil liability arising from the use of robots. Should the owner be liable for damages caused by a smart robot? In fact, in the future, more and more robots will be able to make “smart” autonomous decisions and interact with third parties independently, as well as cause damages by their own. Should such damages be the responsibility of the person who designed, trained or operated the robot?

Some argue in favor of a strict liability rule, “thus requiring only proof that damage has occurred and the establishment of a causal link between the harmful behavior of the robot and the damage suffered by the injured party”.

The Report goes even further by asking the Commission to create a compulsory insurance scheme for owners and producers to cover damage potentially caused by robots and a compensation fund guaranteeing compensation for damages, but also allowing investments and donations in favor of robots.

Exciting times lay ahead of us. It remains to be seen if the current legal principles will be sufficient or if new ones will actually be necessary.