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Thursday, 15 December 2016

CEIPI/EAO Conference--"Copyright Enforcement in the Online World"


Copyright enforcement online has been increasingly taking centre stage in the policy debate on the future of copyright law in Europe, and it is precisely this topic that was addressed on November 22nd at an international conference jointly organised by the Centre for International Intellectual Property Studies (CEIPI) and the European Audiovisual Observatory in the beautiful European city of Strasbourg. The conference, which took place at the Council of Europe, brought together high-level personalities, including the Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip, Members of the European Parliament, representatives of the Council of Europe, academia and the copyright sector. Kat Friend Elena Izyumenko has kindly provided a summary of the conference.

"The conference kicked off with the representatives of the European Audiovisual Observatory (part of the Council of Europe), Susanne Nikoltchev and Maja Cappello, who set the scene by discussing why copyright enforcement is important and what makes it so special in the online world. They sketched out current policies and mechanisms of digital copyright enforcement and the problems associated with territoriality. The next speaker, Pavel Svoboda, MEP and Chair of the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), reiterated the main purposes of the copyright package proposed by the Commission. He stressed that the majority of MEPs can be expected to welcome the idea of involving the big players of the Internet in copyright enforcement by monitoring the content uploaded by users. He noted, however, that the Commission’s proposal raises a few questions: 1), to what extent will the technology be sufficient to prevent copyright infringement online?; 2) whether the liability regime of E-Commerce Directive is being reviewed by the proposal without formally reopening the Directive?; and 3) is the IPR Enforcement Directive of 2004 in some respects out of step with the digital age and combatting online infringements?

The floor then went to the keynote speaker, the Vice-President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip, who is responsible for the Digital Single Market. His speech centred on the threats of copyright infringement, its costs to the European economy, and, consequently, on the need to toughen the rules on enforcement. At the same time, the equally important aim of providing better access to digital content was also underlined. An emphasis was made on the need to ensure the cross-border access to online content as one of the measures providing the users with an alternative to piracy.

Insofar as the fair remuneration of the authors was concerned, an example of musicians whose works are being made available on different platforms was brought to demonstrate the currently existing value gap. It was stressed that platforms based on subscriptions have 68 million users per month, while contributing about 2 billion EUR to the musicians. At the same time, some other platforms supported by advertising, which have one billion users per month, contribute only 643 million EUR, giving rise to the claims about unfair remuneration. To tackle this problem, the Commission proposed to make it more clear when platforms are acting as neutral intermediaries and when they are selling a new value product by using somebody’s else work without remuneration. In this regard, the Commission is determined to promote some technical solutions to improve the situation, including the content-recognition tools of the kind YouTube has already adopted in its practice.

The second part of the conference focused on the role that online intermediaries should (or should not) play in digital copyright enforcement. The European Court of Human Rights judge, Robert Spano, discussed in this context the two recent judgments of the Court on liability of online platforms for the third-party content posted online. In one, the much-debated Delfi v. Estonia, the Court basically approved a liability regime, whereby the internet portal can be held liable for hosting infringing content generated by its users, despite no actual knowledge of that content and its immediate removal upon notification. This rather questionable position of the Court was, however, later “corrected” in the MTE v. Hungary decision, which found that holding an ISP liable for user comments violated that ISP’s freedom of expression. Two principal differences that distinguished this case from Delfi were the non-commercial nature of one of the applicants and the fact that the infringing content at issue in MTE did not qualify as clearly unlawful hate speech.

The discussion on the role of online intermediaries then processed from liability to the questions of injunctive relief. Prof Christophe Geiger and Elena Izyumenko from the CEIPI presented their recent research on this topic, with a focus on the currently fashionable practice of ordering Internet access providers to block infringing websites across Europe. Having sketched the case law presently developed on this subject, they elaborated the different standards applicable to website blocking, and did that from the perspective of fundamental rights that come into balancing in these types of cases.

The conference ended with the panel discussion on future perspectives on copyright enforcement online with the participation of Julia Reda, MEP for the Pirate Party, Rüdiger Dossow, Secretary to PACE Committee of Culture, Science, Education and Media,ilvia Grundmann, Head of Media and Internet Governance Division of the Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law of the Council of Europe, Cécile Despringre, Executive Director of the Society of Audiovisual Authors, and Giancarlo Frosio and Prof Sean O’Connor from the CEIPI."

If you were unable to make it, you can watch the video recording of the entire event here: Part I and Part II

To access the conference programme, click here

Photo, lower right--Christophe Geiger (L), Director General of CEIPI; Andrus Ansip (C), Vice Commissioner, Digital Single Market; Susanne Nikoltchev (R), Executive Director. European Audiovisual Observatory.

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