Madrid, 24 June 2019 – The European Patent Office (EPO) has censored contributions to its public consultation ‘EPO2023’ from spanish companies and citizens. The EPO wanted input from the public on how they could “improve” themselves, but failed to be inclusive. Seven contributions were refused on the basis that the EPO only accept contributions from the public only in its official three languages (English, German, French). Apparently, other contributions in Dutch were also censored. The first form was already biased as the EPO considered all companies to be “patent applicants”, so a normal company interested in to participate had to tick the option “other” instead of “company”.
The case that article 13 EU copyright reform proposal will not lead to internet upload filters, has crumbled, now that the German government acknowledges that article 13 would lead to such filters. Proponents of article 13 have claimed that alternatives to upload filters exist which will ensure that copyright protected works are not available on internet platforms. However, in discussions proponents have only mentioned manual filtering as an alternative. This didn’t convince, due to the massive amounts of uploads to filter. In an article major German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports, under the title Bundesregierung rechnet mit ‘Uploadfiltern’ that the German government admits upload filters are likely to be needed. The newspaper mentions that Christian Lange, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, wrote in answer to a parliamentary question:
“In the [German] federal government’s view it appears likely that algorithmic measures will have to be taken in connection with large volumes of data for practical reasons alone.” (Translation Florian Mueller, see his blog.)
The German government acknowledges what everyone sees as unavoidable in case of large volumes of uploads.
One member of the European Parliament Green group, Helga Trüpel, responded to the blog “Nine Green MEPs voted in favour of upload filters”. She argues that her vote in favour of article 13 copyright reform proposal is not a vote for upload filters. I am grateful for her reaction, which clarifies some issues. I will highlight some of her arguments. The discussion below reveals that Trüpel misrepresents article 13 as notice and take down, often disregards that rights holders do not have to grant a licence, and sees filtering by humans as an alternative to automatic filtering.
The European Parliament has voted in favour of article 13 of the copyright reform proposal. The text of article 13, as adopted by the Parliament, makes internet platforms liable for users’ uploads, but does not mention upload filters. However, as explained by many, including academics, if platforms are liable, they will have to filter to avoid liability. General mandatory upload filters are not allowed in the EU; they interfere too much with our freedom of expression. With its vote, the Parliament voted in favour of upload filters without mentioning them.
About a year ago I requested documents regarding the negotiations on the EU – South Korea trade agreement, provisionally applied since July 2011 and formally ratified in December 2015. I was especially interested in documents regarding the negotiations on intellectual property rights, specifically the documents regarding criminal enforcement. On 24 November 2017 the European Commission provided a link to the partially declassified “Recommendation from the Commission to the Council”. The commission did not declassify the interesting part, the directives for the negotiations. I recently received a list of 15 documents (Annex 1); eight documents are withheld; I received seven partially disclosed documents (zip).
European politicians want more algorithmic transparency. However, they also want to sign the EU-Japan trade agreement, which restricts audits of software and algorithms. 1
For regulatory supervision we need access to source code. The Volkswagen emissions scandal has shown that devices can be programmed to mislead researchers. 2 In addition, audits can reveal whether decision making software contains biases. And Facebook’s role in elections and referendums shows that the use of personal data is not only a civil rights issue, but may compromise the integrity of our institutions.
The Netherlands has published a new model bilateral investment treaty (BIT). It gives multinationals far reaching rights to challenge government decisions and it places its enforcement mechanism (investor-to-state dispute settlement or ISDS) under U.S. and Dutch influence. Enforcement mechanism
The most remarkable change is that all members of ISDS tribunals would be appointed by an appointing authority, the secretary-general of ICSID or the secretary-general of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (article 20). Both are not judges. The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) is part of the World Bank.
The secretly negotiated EU-Japan trade agreement’s intellectual property (IP) chapter limits possibilities for copyright and patent reform. With the agreement, the EU exports part of its IP system. Local rules become binding international rules. Societies need policy space for reform. 1 The exclusive nature of copyrights, patents and other so called intellectual property rights impedes access to medicine and cultural goods, and harms independent and follow up innovation; copyright isn’t fit for the digital age.
The European Commission has published the final text of the EU-Singapore trade agreement. 1 Chapter eight contains implicit and explicit cross-border data flow commitments, with insufficient safeguards. This makes the agreement incompatible with the EU fundamental right to data protection. Noteworthy, a few months ago the EU commission adopted a new, stronger, data protection safeguard for use in trade agreements. The EU-Singapore trade agreement text does not contain this stronger safeguard.
On 31 January, the European Commission agreed on new plans for cross-border data flows and personal data protection in trade negotiations. Cross-border data flows are a difficult issue. Companies want them. The EU wants to open foreign markets for its strong services industry. But data protection is a fundamental right in the EU; it has to be protected also in cross-border data flows.
The EU and Japan have concluded the legal scrub of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The council may already decide on ratification on 22 May 2018. No EU member state ratification is needed. Regarding cross-border data flows and data protection, a European Commission’s press release states that recent reforms of their respective privacy legislation offers new opportunities to facilitate data exchanges, including through a simultaneous finding of an adequate level of protection by both sides. But this is not the full story.