Monthly Archives: July 2016

Analysing the Advocate General’s opinion on data retention and EU law

7562831366_66f986c3ea_o (1)Last week, the Advocate General published an opinion on a case brought to the European Court of Justice concerning the compatibility of the UK and Sweden’s data retention laws with EU law.

In a detailed analysis, Lorna Woods, Professor of Internet Law at the University of Essex considers the potential implications of the opinion for national data retention regimes (including the UK’s Investigatory Powers Bill) and the legal tensions which arise from the Advocate General’s opinion. This post first appeared on Professor Steve Peer’s EU Law Analysis blog.     

The Advocate General’s opinion concerns two references from national courts which both arose in the aftermath of the invalidation of the Data Retention Directive (Directive 2006/24) in Digital Rights Ireland dealing with whether the retention of communications data en masse complies with EU law.

The question is important for the regimes that triggered the references, but in the background is a larger question: can mass retention of data ever be human rights compliant. While the Advocate General clearly states this is possible, things may not be that straightforward. Continue reading

“Right to be forgotten” requires anonymisation of online newspaper archive

In this post, Hugh Tomlinson QC discusses the implications of a ruling in the Belgian justice system for the application of the “right to be forgotten” for news organisations. Tomlinson is a member of Matrix Chambers and an editor of the Inforrm blog. The post was first published on the Inforrm blog and is cross-posted here with permission. 

In the case of Olivier G v Le Soir (29 April 2016, n° C.15.0052.F [pdf]) the Belgian Court of Cassation decided that, as the result of the “right to be forgotten”, a newspaper had been properly ordered to anonymise the online version of a 1994 article concerning a fatal road traffic accident.

The applicant had been convicted of a drink driving offence as a result of the accident but his conviction was spent and the continued online publication of his name was a violation of his Article 8 rights which outweighed the Article 10 rights of the newspaper and the public.

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The socio-legal aspects of 3D printing: Between “chaos” and “control”

Socio-legal aspects bookNot so long ago 3D printing was being discussed alongside the internet, file sharing and digital currencies as a sign of the beginning of an era of post-control and post-scarcity.

There were fears that governments would struggle to regulate the activities of a new generation of “prosumers” (producer-consumers) and that economic and legal certainties would be challenged by an increase in the decentralised “free” supply of goods.

Last night, at the Information Law and Policy Centre, Dr Angela Daly and Dr Dinusha Mendis presented a more nuanced view of the prospects of 3D printing as a “disruptive” technology to mark the launch of Daly’s new book, Socio-Legal Aspects of the 3D Printing Revolution.

Daly, a research fellow at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Law, shared findings from postdoctoral research at the Swinburne University of Technology considering the legal aspects of 3D printing from the standpoint of the US, UK-EU and Australian legal systems.

s200_angela.dalyDaly’s transnational lens enabled her to identify a number of divergent legal approaches to 3D printing in relation to exceptions to infringement, intermediary liability, copyright and DMCA takedowns.

She found that the legal implications of 3D printing were hard to generalise despite attempts at the harmonisation of international law. More often the legal status of 3D printing was both nationally and scenario specific. To this end, Daly noted that it would also be interesting to research how legal jurisdictions in emerging economies were tackling 3D printing.

Focussing particularly on the potential problems created for Intellectual Property law by 3D printing, Daly concluded that the technology was neither leading to “total chaos” nor “total control”.

She highlighted that 3D printing has not yet become a mainstream practice – despite entry level 3D printers selling for around £500, far fewer people own one than they do a smartphone or computer. Daly also emphasised that incumbent businesses and companies are incorporating 3D printing into their business models.

She stated, therefore, that although there was some chaos around the edges – such as the ability for people to print 3D guns – the overall picture was that from a socio-legal perspective the technology was not currently particularly ‘disruptive’.

Dinusha MendisDaly’s position was reinforced by a presentation from Dr Dinusha Mendis, Co-Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management (CIPPM) at Bournemouth University. Mendis has conducted research on the Intellectual Property and Copyright implications of 3D printing including work which was commissioned by the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office.

Of fundamental concern here is the potential illegal copying and use of the computer-aided design (CAD) files required to print objects in 3D. Her research identified hundreds of online platforms for the distribution of 3D printing files which were providing access to hundreds of thousands of designs.

Mendis’ research into online platforms reveals that interest in 3D printing has grown immensely between 2008 and 2014, but she identified limitations to the spread of the practice.

Potential users do not always have access to the right materials, funds to be able to purchase more sophisticated printers or the legal knowledge to license their work. Moreover, companies and businesses in this field informed her that there was currently little commercial impact on either automotive or domestic products. They predicted that 3D printing would remain limited for the next five to ten years.

For both Mendis and Daly, then, 3D printing has not yet lived up to initial hype over its ‘disruptive’ potential. Mendis recommended a ‘wait and see’ approach to UK government, concerned that legislating too hastily in this area might stifle creativity.

Nevertheless, as 3D printing technology improves and becomes cheaper, it might become the focus of increasing interest for legal scholars in the future.

Further Reading

A. Daly (2016) Socio-Legal Aspects of the 3D Printing Revolution, Palgrave MacMillan: UK
D. Mendis (2015) A Legal and Empirical Study into the Intellectual Property Implications of 3D Printing.
D. Mendis (2014) “Clone Wars”: Episode II – The Next Generation: The Copyright Implications relating to 3D Printing and Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Files. Law, Innovation and Technology, 6 (2), 265-281.
D. Mendis (2013) ‘The Clone Wars’ – Episode 1: The Rise of 3D Printing and its Implications for Intellectual Property Law – Learning Lessons from the Past?,  European Intellectual Property Review, 35 (3), 155-169.

Addressing the challenge of anonymous sources in the digital age

Dr Aljosha Karim Schapals, research assistant at the Information Law and Policy Centre, reports from the launch of a new book by Eric Barendt, Emeritus Professor of Media Law at UCL, on anonymous speech in the context of literature, law and politics.

On 28 June, Professor Eric Barendt launched his new book ‘Anonymous Speech: Literature, Law and Politics’ at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS). His book critically examines the arguments for and against anonymity, which in the context of online communications draw attention to complex and important moral and legal questions.

It is on this basis that Barendt started outlining the pros and cons of anonymous speech, both online as well as offline: on the one hand, the use of pseudonyms has enabled great writers such as Jane Austen to publish anonymously and to have their privacy protected on the grounds of gender and socio-economic class considerations. Furthermore, anonymity allows writers to have their work considered solely on the basis of its merits rather than the additional ‘baggage’ that comes with being an established writer.

On the other hand, however, anonymity can be used to deceive audiences or inflict harm. Barendt stressed that anonymity on the Internet can encourage more socially disinhibited behaviour leading to hate speech, threats of rape and violence as well as cyberbullying.

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What is the impact of the Brexit vote on the Investigatory Powers Bill?

IP bill 2 copyThe Investigatory Powers Bill is currently proceeding through parliament – its second reading in the House of Lords took place on Monday 27 June.

Readers may have missed reports on the Lords debate amidst financial losses, Labour Party resignations, the Conservative Party leadership race and, of course, England’s embarrassing exit from Euro 2016 (among other things).

Given the ongoing political uncertainty and distractions after the Brexit vote, Open Rights Group campaigners have called on the government to halt the passage of the Bill on the basis that it cannot be adequately scrutinised by parliamentarians, the media and the public.

The Open Rights Group suggests that the passage of the Bill could be affected by the political crisis – the Bill could be accelerated or delayed depending on whether a General Election is called.

Ongoing legal cases may also affect its passage – particularly the impending European Court of Justice ruling on a case brought by MPs Tom Watson and David Davis in relation to the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA). In the Lords debate, Lord Butler described the DRIPA ruling as “hanging over the whole issue”.

Elements of DRIPA – emergency legislation passed in 2014 – have been included in the Investigatory Powers Bill. If the ECJ upholds a decision by the High Court in July 2015 that the sections on self-authorised access and bulk retention of data breach fundamental EU Charter rights under Articles 7 and 8, then this could have a significant impact on the IP Bill.

It is likely that any temptation to ignore ECJ rulings relevant to the IP Bill (and more generally) in light of the leave vote will be resisted as any failure to comply with current EU treaty obligations could possibly provide a pretext for greater EU action against the UK to speed up Brexit. Although there is no mechanism to formally expel the UK from the EU, indirect action could be explored which might put pressure on the UK’s control of the exit process through Article 50.

In the Lords debate, there was disagreement over the impact of the leave vote on the Bill. Lord Rosser noted that the vote to leave the EU had “added to the complexity” of the Bill due to uncertainties over European cooperation on security issues, but the Advocate General for Scotland, Lord Keen of Elie did not believe that any changes to the Bill would be required in light of the Brexit vote.

For the time being, the Bill continues its path to Royal Assent – the House of Lords committee stage is due to begin on 11 July.