Monthly Archives: August 2016

Update from the Information Law and Policy Centre

A reflection on what we’ve achieved to date, and a preview of what lies ahead for 2016/17

It is now 18 months since the official launch of the Information Law and Policy Centre at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.

As the Centre’s first director, Dr Judith Townend, moves onto a new post at the University of Sussex, we thought it would be an opportune moment to offer you a brief summary of some of the Centre’s activities so far.

The Centre was launched in February 2015 with a remit to provide opportunities for academics, lawyers, policymakers, journalists, NGOs, charities and other parties to explore the way information and data is controlled, shared and disseminated.

As well as a small academic staff, its members include a number of associate research fellows based at various UK universities, and visiting fellows from around the world. An expert Advisory Board has helped us develop our programme of research.

At the launch event, presentations were given on topics as diverse as institutional data sharing, privacy vigilantism and cybersecurity. In the evening, Timothy Pitt-Payne QC, barrister at 11KBW and specialist in information rights, gave an informative and entertaining talk entitled ‘Does Privacy Matter?’

After an encouraging start, the Centre pursued a variety of inter-related research avenues.

One of the Centre’s main areas of interest during this period has been the progress of the Investigatory Powers Bill. During 2015, a team led by Professor Lorna Woods sought to establish the legal provenance of as many clauses in the draft Investigatory Powers Bill as possible. The Centre also collated commentary and other materials related to the Bill. These online resources support research into issues raised by the Bill around privacy, security and data sharing.

The Centre has also taken an active interest in the government’s Prevent strategy and the potential impact on freedom of expression and academic freedom brought about by the enforcement of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. In October 2015, in collaboration with the Human Rights Consortium at the School of Advanced Study, the Information Law and Policy Centre held a one day event considering how the Act might affect universities, their staff and students. The keynote was delivered by the Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable.

The Centre’s work on intellectual property law, led by Dr Christina Angelopoulos (who will be taking up a post at the University of Cambridge in October), has focused primarily on the law of copyright. The Centre has been particularly interested in the relationship between human rights and copyright, the issue of intermediary liability for copyright infringement and the need to re-evaluate the position of copyright in the modern economic and technological landscape. Most recently the centre hosted the launch of Angela Daly’s new book on the legal implications of 3D printing for copyright law.

More broadly, the Information Law and Policy Centre has also contributed to events coordinated by the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. In particular, the Centre has assisted with a number of events exploring the humanity of law including ‘The Humanity of Judging‘, ‘Judgecraft and Emotions’ and ‘The Humanity of Barristers: Stories from the Bar’. In June 2016, the Centre helped organised an exhibition of drawings from the UK Supreme Court and other courts which provide artist Isobel Williams’ perspective on the human participants involved in legal proceedings.

In between times, the Centre has considered a range of other issues including access to courts data and the principle of open justice, freedom of information and expression, the right to be forgotten, whistleblowing in the digital age, and the interaction of UK law with the EU in relation to the EU referendum.

Speakers have included the Scottish Information Commissioner Rosemary Agnew, Heather Rogers QC, former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue, Dominic Grieve QC MP,  Jessica Simor QC, and investigative journalists Heather Brooke and Ewen Macaskill. Numerous academics have joined discussion panels or led seminars; among these were Dr Judith Bannister, Professor Eric Barendt, Professor Ian Cram, and Professor Lilian Edwards.

We have offered training in law and ethics for research, and on public policy engagement for PhD students and early career researchers. A list of resources from our events and training can be found here.

We believe the Centre has had a strong start over the last 18 months and we would like to thank you for all your support of the Information Law and Policy Centre during this time. The Centre is only successful because of those of you who have attended events, given presentations, written guest blog posts, contributed to our research activities and encouraged us in the Centre’s work. We are especially grateful to our excellent advisors – both official and unofficial – and to all the external organisations and institutions with which we have partnered.

And more events are to come! Activities for autumn 2016 include ongoing research on protection for whistleblowers and journalists, an annual workshop themed on information control and human rights sponsored by Bloomsbury’s Communications Law journal (9th November), and a seminar and panel discussion at London’s Free Word Centre to celebrate 250 years since Freedom of Information took root in Sweden in 1766 (8th December).

Looking ahead, we hope the Information Law and Policy Centre has an important contribution to make in the future bringing together academics, policymakers and practitioners in this field to discuss and research these issues.

As such, we are looking forward to seeing how the Information Law and Policy Centre develops under a new Director who will be appointed in the near future: the post will be advertised shortly via the University of London website.

For inquiries about the Centre’s activities, please contact our part-time research assistant Dr Daniel Bennett (daniel.bennett@sas.ac.uk).

 

 

 

Brexit: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”

Brexit IT law scrabble

In the following editorial, Professor Lilian Edwards considers the implications of the Brexit vote for information law and assesses the mood amongst the academic community in the aftermath of the EU Referendum.

The article was first published in Volume 13, Issue 2 of SCRIPT-ed: A Journal of Law, Technology and Society. Professor Edwards’ views do not represent those of the Information Law and Policy Centre or the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. 

On 23 June 2016 a slim majority of UK voters decided we should leave the EU in one of the great political upsets of British political history. On 24 June, the next day, CREATe,[1] the RCUK copyright and business models centre which I have helped run since 2012, ran a one-day festival at the Royal Society of the Arts in London. This was designed to be a showcase and celebration of four years of working at the cutting edge of copyright and how it either helps or hinders the creative industries and arts. Hundreds of academics signed up to show and see, including the Director of CREATe, Martin Kretschmer of Glasgow University, from Germany by birth, and many others from all over Europe and beyond.

It was a classic international IT/intellectual property event: analysing laws made throughout the world to regulate globalised cultural markets, transnational data and product flows, disruptive technologies that disregard borders, and audiences as likely to listen to music made in Brazil via decentralised P2P networks, as watch Netflix series made in the US, or use smartphones made in Japan to watch Hindi pop videos on YouTube.

In the event, the CREATe Festival became more of a wake. Reportedly, experienced academics, who thought themselves hardened to trauma by years of bombardment from REF, TEF and NSS, were almost in tears at the first session. This writer, derelict of duty, was not there to corroborate, still staring like a rabbit in the headlights at the TV in a hotel bedroom in Docklands, where the dominant tech, business and financial workers were almost equally in shock.

So, Brexit. As the dust not so much settles as temporarily accumulates while we work out what on earth happens next, what are the implications for IT law and UK academe? Are they really as bad as they seemed that morning? Continue reading

C-494/15 – Tommy Hilfiger: No Difference between Online and Real World Marketplaces for IP Enforcement

In the following piece, Christina Angelopoulos, post-doc researcher at the Information Law and Policy Centre of the University of London, analyses the recent judgment of the CJEU in case C-494/15 Tommy Hilfiger. The post was originally published on the Kluwer Copyright Blog.

On 7 July 2016, the CJEU (Court of Justice of the European Union) handed down its decision in Tommy Hilfiger (case C-494/15). The case concerned the imposition of an injunction on Delta Center, a company that sublets sales areas in the “Prague Market Halls” (Pražská tržnice) to traders, after it was found that counterfeit goods were sold in the marketplace.

The requested injunction would require that Delta Center refrain from: a) renting space to persons previously found by the courts to have engaged in trademark infringement; b) include terms in their rental contracts that oblige market traders to refrain from infringement; and c) publish an apology for past infringements by third party traders. [To continue reading the rest of the post on the Kluwer Copyright Blog, click here.]

Pokémon Go has revealed a new battleground for virtual privacy

Pokemon go and virtual privacyAndres Guadamuz, University of Sussex

People have been lingering outside Boon Sheridan’s house all through the night. The designer lives in an old church in Massachusetts that has been designated a “gym” in the new smartphone game Pokémon Go. Because the game requires players to visit places in the real world, Sheridan now has to put up with people regularly stopping outside his building to play.

It has got to the point where he has started wondering if there is anything the law can do in situations like this. He wrote on Twitter: “Do I even have rights when it comes to a virtual location imposed on me? Businesses have expectations, but this is my home.” This problem of virtual activities impinging on physical spaces in only likely to grow with the increasing popularity of the augmented reality used in games such as Pokémon Go to overlay digital landscapes on real ones. But there may be a way to deal with this before it becomes a serious legal problem for more people.

Pokémon Go encourages players to interact with their actual environment by using realistic maps of their surroundings as part of the game. Certain landmarks, monuments and public buildings are tagged as “stops”, where players can collect items, and some public spaces including churches, parks and businesses are tagged as “gyms”, where users can battle each other.

It is the tagging element that has prompted a few interesting legal questions about the role of augmented reality. The game’s developer, Niantic, is using a combination of data from Google Maps and user-generated tags collected from an earlier game called Ingress. This data is used to identify real-life spots as either a stop or a gym. But what happens when the data mistakenly identifies a house as a public space, as happened to Sheridan?

As it turns out, Niantic offers people the chance to highlight problems with a location. And in the grand scheme of things, whether a person’s house is mis-tagged in a game does not seem like something worthy of new laws, particularly when the developer offers to correct any errors. But Pokémon Go is just the beginning. The game has proven the potential of augmented reality to appeal to a very large audience, so we can expect many other applications of the technology to come our way.

The wild success of location-based gaming may bring about a horde of imitators, so expect a new generation of augmented reality gaming to hit the app stores soon. And the technology’s potential also goes beyond gaming so we can expect more mainstream applications of geo-tagging and location-based interaction, especially with the growth of wearable technology such as fitness trackers. You can imagine that soon we will have a world in which ever house, every car, even every person could come with an added virtual tag full of data. The potential for innovation in this area is staggering.

But what if your house is tagged in a global database without your permission and you value your privacy so do not want any passersby to know that you live there? Or what if a commercially-sensitive database identifies your business with incorrect data and you cannot reach the developer or they refuse to amend it? People looking for businesses in your area may miss you and go to a competitor that is correctly listed. Even more worrying, what if your house was previously occupied by a sex offender and is tagged in an outdated database with that information?

The problems would go far beyond what is happening with Sheridan’s house. These cases could have real negative effects on people’s lives, privacy, or business prospects.

The potential for trouble will be worse with the launch of apps that allow users to tag public or private buildings themselves. Why will abusers and trolls bother spray-painting a house, when they can geo-tag it maliciously? Paint washes away, but data may be more difficult to erase.

My proposal is to extend data protection legislation to virtual spaces. At the moment, data protection is strictly personal as it relates to any information about a specific person, known as a data subject. The data subject has a variety of rights, such as having the right to access their data and rectify and erase anything that is inaccurate or excessive.

Protecting objects

Under my proposal, the data subject’s rights would remain as they are, but the law would contain a new definition, that of the data object. This relates to data about a specific location. The rights of data objects would be considerably more limited than those of a data subject. But classifying them like this would take advantage of the data-protection mechanisms that already exist for when someone is intrinsically linked to a location.

In other words, just tagging a location on an augmented reality database wouldn’t violate the data protection. But mis-tagging a location as a public space in a way that could impinge on people’s enjoyment of that location could trigger action by the regulator to have the tag amended, removed or even erased. This would be especially useful for private spaces such as Sheridan’s house. If the app developer fails to make a change to the data, the property owner could make a request to the data protection authority, who would then force developers to change the data – or face fines.

There are limits to this proposal. Such a regime would only apply to companies based in the same country as the data protection regulator. So, for example, European countries wouldn’t be able to force Niantic to make changes to Pokémon Go’s tags, because the company is based in the US. There would also need to be strict restrictions on exactly what counts a data object and what is worth amending or deleting, otherwise the system could be abused.

But one thing is already certain: Pokémon Go is just the beginning of a new world of location-based data applications, and we need to find better ways to protect our digital rights in that space.

The ConversationAndres Guadamuz, Senior Lecturer in Intellectual Property Law, University of Sussex

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Photo: Eduardo Woo, CC BY-SA 2.0