Monthly Archives: May 2016

Call for Papers: Restricted and Redacted – Where now for human rights and digital information control?

Restricted and Redacted: Where now for human rights and digital information control?

We are pleased to announce this call for papers for the annual IALS’ Information Law and Policy Centre research workshop on 9 November 2016 in London, this year supported by Bloomsbury’s Communications Law journal. You can read about our first event in 2015 here.

We are looking for high quality and focused contributions that consider information law and policy in the context of human rights. Whether based on doctrinal analysis or empirical social research, papers should offer an original perspective on the way in which information and data interact with fundamental rights, which may, for example include legal rights and principles relating to free expression, privacy, data protection, reputation, copyright, national security, anti-discrimination and open justice.

Topics of particular interest in 2016 include: internet intermediary liability, investigatory and surveillance powers, media regulation, freedom of information, the EU General Data Protection Regulation, whistleblower protection, and ‘anti-extremism’ policy.

The workshop will take place during the afternoon of Wednesday 9th November 2016 and will be followed by an evening reception and keynote lecture. Attendance will be free of charge thanks to the support of the IALS and our sponsor, although registration will be required as places are limited.

The best papers will be featured in a special issue of Bloomsbury’s Communications Law journal, following a peer review process. Those giving papers will be invited to submit full draft papers to the journal by 18th November 2016 for consideration by the journal’s editorial team.

How to apply:

Please send an abstract of between 250-300 words and brief biographical information to Eliza Boudier, Fellowships and Administrative Officer, IALS: eliza.boudier@sas.ac.uk by Friday 1st July 2016 (5pm, BST). Abstracts will be considered by the Information Law and Policy Centre academic staff and advisors, and the Communications Law journal editorial team.

About the Information Law and Policy Centre at the IALS:

The Information Law and Policy Centre produces, promotes and facilitates research about the law and policy of information and data, and the ways in which law both restricts and enables the sharing and dissemination of different types of information.  It is part of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, which was founded in 1947. It was conceived and is funded as a national academic institution, attached to the University of London, serving all universities through its national legal research library. Its function is to promote, facilitate and disseminate the results of advanced study and research in the discipline of law, for the benefit of persons and institutions in the UK and abroad.

About Communications Law (Journal of Computer, Media and Telecommunications Law):

Communications Law is a well-respected quarterly journal published by Bloomsbury Professional covering the broad spectrum of legal issues arising in the telecoms, IT and media industries. Each issue brings you 32 pages of opinion and discussion from the field of communications law. It is currently edited by Dr Paul Wragg, Associate Professor of Law at the University of Leeds.

Workshop summary: Evaluating legal responses to threats to news in a digital environment

On the 3rd November 2015, a workshop was held at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS) in London, to discuss potential legal responses to threats to the production of news in a digital environment. Particular attention was paid to copyright.

The workshop was an output of a two-year study funded by the AHRC, entitled ‘Appraising Potential Legal Responses to Threats to the Production of News in a Digital Environment’.

The co-Principal Investigators in the study are Professors Lionel Bently of Cambridge University and Ian Hargreaves of Cardiff University. The Research Associate is Dr Richard Danbury.

Present were academics, representatives of news publishers, and representatives of digital information businesses.

On the basis of the discussions that unfolded during the workshop, Richard Danbury has now compiled a report. This can be downloaded in PDF format at this link below.

R Danbury – Public Summary of London Workshop

 

Briefing: How Brexit might affect EU audio-visual media services policy-making

This brief by Professor Alison Harcourt, University of Exeter, discusses the current issues affecting UK stakeholders in the cross-border audio-visual services sector.

It is written in light of the replies to the public consultation on Directive 2010/13/EU on Audio-visual Media Services (AVMSD), the Commission’s Regulatory Fitness (REFIT) exercise, the public consultation on the EU Satellite and Cable Directive, national consultations and a possible exit of the UK from the EU. The paper also draws on anonymised responses to an online survey run by the author.

The paper’s findings are considered in the context of current market trends: the increase in high definition channels, decrease in television watching (e.g. DTT, cable, satellite, IPTV) particularly amongst the younger populations, the move towards on-line and on-demand services and changes in content investment.

If the UK were to withdraw from the EU, companies would still be able to broadcast to Europe from the UK under an EEA or possible bi-lateral agreement. However, the UK would no longer have a vote on Single Market decision-making within the Council of Ministers and no representation in the European Parliament. It would cease to have formal representation in soft governance fora such as BEREC and ERGA. Future changes to EU communications policy could affect UK interests and UK-based stakeholders might change their preferences accordingly.

Many in the industry have expressed concerns over Brexit. A survey conducted by Pact found that 85 per cent of its members were in favour of the UK remaining in EU. Enders reports that the advertising market, which is a growth area for the UK, will suffer as “a post-Brexit recession will cause a hyper-cyclical decline in the advertising revenues of broadcasters and publishers”.

This article will look at current European Commission proposals that affect cross-border broadcasting to understand why stakeholders are so concerned about Brexit and tease out different scenarios. The section focuses on European Commission proposals to revise the Audio-visual Media Services and SatCab Directives (AVMSD). The AVMSD proposal is expected in the summer of 2016.

Most UK concerns over Directive revisions relate to a possible change in the definition of the country of origin (COO) principle. The European Commission concluded that there should be no changes to AVMSD for measures on accessibility, the listing of events or the right of reply. However, it stated that there was no consensus on commercial communications, protection of minors and changes to European works quotas.

From its consultation, the EC found that there is no appetite for changing the country of origin principle within AVMSD. However, it does not rule out a change to the definition of the principle as occurred in 1997. The 2015 AVMSD consultation queried whether there should be a derogation to the country of origin principle in the areas of 1) incitement to hatred 2) ‘where editorial decisions on an audio-visual media service are taken’ 3) where broadcasters try to circumvent stricter rules in specific Member States and 4) protection of minors.

The DCMS response the European Commission AVSMD consultation stated that “the country of origin principle (COO) is a fundamental and critical precondition for the generation of a Digital Single Market in content; it is the core of the directive and must not be lost or eroded”. ITV states “we are therefore not convinced that an extension or adaptation of country of origin principle, for example to online VOD, would result in the creation of an internal market for audio-visual content”.

A 2016 COBA report states that “under current proposals for changing the principle, many VoD services would almost certainly cease to be viable”. The lack of appetite for a change in AVMSD may lead to a change to the principle in other Directives. Indeed, the European Commission queried to a possible change in the country of origin principle within the SatCab Directive. In response in the SatCab Directive, Sky responded that “Sky is concerned that the SatCab Directive review, which did not originally form part of the DSM strategy, was included in the strategy at the very last minute, with no prior impact assessment”.

AVMSD is expected to be revised within the next two years before the UK officially would leave the UK if Brexit occurs and might possibly be decided during the UK Presidency of the Council of the EU. However, if Directive revision is delayed, and the UK was to leave the EU and not contribute to AVMSD final revisions, there could be a change to the Directive, which might not be favourable to UK interests. Or the Directive could be updated again after the UK leaves. This could potentially make the UK less attractive as a base for companies’ operation.

Regarding derogation to the COO based on hate speech, this could be interpreted in many ways by Member States particularly in Central and Eastern Europe which have historically had stricter interpretations of hate speech than the UK. Regarding, a change to the definition of COO in relation to editorial control, this could affect operators like MTG which takes editorial decisions on programming in Stockholm. For example, if the COO was redefined based upon editorial decision-making, licensing for MTG would be changed to Italy and Germany respectively and Sweden.

Regarding derogation to the COO based on the protection of minors, this could affect UK operators that provide children’s channels to Nordic states. The Nordic states have long lobbied for an opt-out for jurisdiction over children’s programming on the grounds of the protection of minors. There are many UK operators that provide children’s programming from the BBC to Disney and Discovery whose channels might no longer be licensed in the UK. Another effect could be a loosened of advertising restrictions to channels broadcasting to the UK. The UK has concerns about looser advertising restrictions particularly in regard to protecting minors against  the advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) and watersheds for linear content (or parental controls for non-linear services).

On other advertising issues, UK stakeholders are divided. Some want looser advertising restrictions on advertising techniques and electronic programme guides (EPGs) e.g. the UK has prioritised public service broadcasters and people with disabilities. Others want tighter restrictions. There is also mixed response to whether there should be access obligations for all delivery platforms.

The European Commission also queried whether it should apply a “dominance test” for content providers and distributors. Although this proposal has been framed in the context of media pluralism, ultimately, this could potentially move competition decisions on media markets to the European level. What this could eventually mean is that the subsidiarity opt-out, long supported by the UK, which permits Member States to apply lowered thresholds and public-interest tests in national competition decisions on media mergers and acquisitions could be lost. A potential change to competition law has potential implications for BBC provision of public service broadcasting under state aid rules.

Lastly, there is mixed UK stakeholder response to the extension of AVMSD rules to on-demand content provision. The Commission has proposed that AVMSD should be extended to online content (e.g. audio-visual user-generated content or audio-visual content within social media), including non-audio-visual content (e.g. still images). For example, Youtube or Facebook increasingly provide streaming services and existing providers view them as direct competitors.

What is clear is that the European Commission is most likely going to propose that on-line services based in non-EU states are blocked and must establish an EU base e.g. from services such as Google Play, Microsoft Store, Youtube and Vimeo registered in the United States and other channels broadcasting into Europe (e.g. from Russia and the Middle East). The feasibility of these proposals must be considered in the context of on-going TTIP negotiations and (more widely) general bilateral relations between non-EU and EU Member States.

About the author

Professor Alison Harcourt (University of Exeter) specialises in regulatory change in communications markets.  Currently, among other roles, Alison is an ESRC Senior Fellow on the ESRC UK in a Changing Europe programme with the project “The impact of a proposed UK Brexit from the EU: the UK communications industries“.

This post originally appeared on the Oxford University Politics Blog and it is re-published here with permission and thanks.

Please note: This site provides general information only and does not contain legal advice. It is not responsible for the content of third party sites. Posts reflect the views of individual authors.

Current vacancies in information law and policy

It seems that information law and policy jobs are just like buses … Here are several current opportunities to share with your networks. (If you have any to advertise, please let us know – we are happy to help spread the word).

Our friends at the Institute for Information Law (IViR) at the University of Amsterdam are looking for a PhD researcher in law and a Postdoc researcher in Communication Science/Journalism/Media Studies for a European ERC project Profiling and targeting news readers – implications for the democratic role of the digital media, user rights and public information policy:

Meanwhile, we – the Information Law and Policy Centre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London – are looking for a temporary part-time assistant. This role is for 2 days a week / 14 hours (with flexibility for vacations) and will be starting in May. Please apply via this link.

Update (11/05/2015): The University of Kent is advertising a funded PhD position available within the H2020 Marie Curie network NeCS, “Network of Excellence in Cyber Security”. This would be to do research in big data, privacy and data protection under the supervision of staff in the Kent Law School and School of Computing. More details at this link.