I hope you've had a good Summer. As temperatures cool, things are hotting up on the digital media law front.With the Government's Response to the Hargreaves Review now published, we can expect action on the copyright front. Whilst there's a general consensus that most of the Hargreaves Recommendations are sensible, some will meet strong opposition and others with questions about how they'll work in practice. The proposals are a copyright exception for 'data mining', and the proposed 'Digital Copyright Exchange', both fall into the latter category. I'm going to explore both of these in upcoming posts so please stay tuned to my Blog.
Meanwhile, I think it's worth taking a step back to look at the big picture in digital media law. I think we're still in the middle of the 2nd industrial revolution. The first one took around 70 years - roughly 1760 to 1830. So if you take the late 1980's as our starting point, (remember the "Information Superhighway", a phrase which surfaced around then?), we've still got 15-20 years to go to complete revolution no.2. But surely, I hear you say, as the digital revolution is powered by broadband, not steam, the timelines are different? Of course, in one sense, that's true. But the digital revolution is multi-speed. Whilst processing power and broadband increase exponentially, establishing new social norms in the digital space and establishing viable legal and business models solutions, takes time.
A good example is the issue of legal liability of digital intermediaries like ISP's and 3rd party service providers such as eBay. More than 10 years ago, both the E-Commerce Directive (2000) and the Copyright Directive (2001) created a legal framework which gave certain legal immunities for intermediaries against liability for illegal content they carried or hosted, whilst at the same time making it clear that rights owners could still in certain circumstances compel them to take action to remove infringing content.
Fast forward to 2011, national Courts are still trying to work out how these provisions work in practice. We've seen this most recently in the European Court of Justice decision in July this year in L'Oreal v.eBay which, amongst other things, examined the legal action which a trade mark owner can take against eBay where it's trade marks are being infringed on eBay. We also saw this in the recent (July 2011) High Court decision in Twentieth Century Fox v. BT. Both cases illustrate that, within certain overall rules, hosts and intermediaries can be compelled to take action to remove infringing content.
I'll be looking at all these issues in forthcoming posts.
Have a good week.