Digital Brief: Could Copyright Return?

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“If Copyright damages internet freedom, we should reopen it.”

– S&D MEP Marina Kaljurand to EURACTIV.


EURACTIV recently caught up with new S&D MEP Marina Kaljurand, the former Estonia Foreign Minister and a politician widely tipped to become one of the most authoritative voices in the new European Parliament on tech issues. She reflected on her compatriot Andrus Ansip’s performance in the Commission as Vice-President for the Digital Single Market. On Copyright, Kaljurand said, he got it all wrong.

“Generally, I think Andrus did a good job, but on copyright, I don’t agree with the approach he adopted,” she recently told me. “The copyright directive split the European community. Half of the Parliament saw it as a potential risk to online freedoms – his Copyright ‘success’ was a narrow victory. He was too hasty with the whole procedure.”

Moreover, Kaljurand believes that the reforms could still return to Parliament during the forthcoming term, should it transpire that the implementation of the directive may have adverse effects on internet freedoms.

“We must now watch the implementation of the reforms closely.” she said. “But if it becomes clear that copyright damages internet freedoms, we should seek to reopen it in the European Parliament.”

From Estonia to Russia, over the weekend it transpired that EU’s embassy in Moscow had been a victim of a series of cyberattacks since February 2017. Following the story, EURACTIV’s Antoine Germain found that the most recent infiltration occurred just weeks before the European Parliament elections. BuzzFeed News reported that the European External Action Service kept many senior EU officials in the dark about the attacks, the EEAS however countered this, saying member states had been informed “via established channels.”

Along this axis, EURACTIV has obtained a copy of next week’s draft Council conclusions, and cybersecurity is set to feature. Leaders are expected to band together “to protect the EU’s information and communication networks, and its decision-making processes, from malicious activity.” (see photo below).

On the subject of Russia’s cyber offensive, last week, I found myself at the GLOBSEC forum in Bratislava. Delivering the opening address at the conference, Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash said that “Russia as we know it today is determined to dissolve the European Union.” In a panel examining the EU’s future authority in a politically unstable global context, Michael Chertoff of the security consultancy The Chertoff Group highlighted concerns related to the “use of cyberspace as a domain of conflict” and that Russia’s tactics in the field of disinformation have been a historically effective medium for disrupting Western politics.

Disinformation will definitely be something I’ll be following this week: I’m currently in Athens for the annual Global Editors Network conference, a gathering of editors, academics, news executives and media innovators from all across the globe, who band together to discuss the critical issues threatening the media sector. The subject of disinformation in this context will feature prominently.

Moreover, EURACTIV has learnt that the Commission will be making a joint statement on disinformation tomorrow (Friday), believed to be in the context of the European elections – watch this space for more.

Commissioners Ansip and Gabriel have been doing the rounds as well. On 8 and 9 June, the former was in Japan to participate in the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Trade and Digital Economy, in which he emphasised the need for a human-centric approach in the field of artificial intelligence. Another story out of the G20 talks, was the fact that ministers agreed to find a consensus on controversial digital tax plans by 2020.

For her part, last week Commissioner Gabriel participated in the EU Telecommunications Council in Luxembourg, in which member states in the council discussed the progress report on the controversial ePrivacy regulation.

EURACTIV’s Felicia Cretu followed the discussions, in which it transpired that Germany is still unwilling to support the text based on reservations about Article 6 – because the clause doesn’t offer enough protection for the data subject, Ireland also has concerns with Article 6 on the basis of the fact that invasive tools may be used to detect offensive material, and the UK is generally worried about potential overlaps with GDPR.

Staying with GDPR, the Commission is hosting an event today, reviewing the application of the measures. It’s likely that the they will come out in praise for the reforms, but there are those in Brussels who are painting a different picture.

Senior Policy Analyst at the Center for Data Innovation, Eline Chivot says that “there is little to suggest effective enforcement of the GDPR across member states” and not all member states are in compliance with the law.”

In addition, she notes that there has been a significant degree of legal uncertainty around the measures, and that Data Protection Authorities are ill-equipped to put up with the quantity of complaints they have received since GDPR came into force.

Still on GDPR, Facebook has failed in its attempt to block the Austrian courts from hearing a data protection case against it, after the tech behemoth claimed that only Ireland had the jurisdiction to bring such a case to court. Meanwhile, the French Data Protection Authority, the CNIL, has dished out a €400,000 fine to the real-estate firm SERGIC, for failing to implement sufficient data protection measures.

Today, Commissioner Gabriel will be in Bucharest, Romania, to participate in the 8th edition of the Digital Assembly 2019. She’ll also be discussing the EU’s recently published Digital Economy and Society Index, which shows that up to 83 percent of Europeans surf the Internet at least once a week. EURACTIV Slovakia’s Lucia Yar looked at the results in more detail, from the perspective of her own country, which showed that

EURACTIV’s Theodore Karaoulanis also analysed the readings of Greece, which show that Greece has made slightly higher progress than the EU average, in terms of its digital development. Sophia Elanidou has also written about the EU’s 5G objectives in the long term (in Greek).

Going north, a debate has broken out within the German government as to whether data retrieved from smart-devices should be used as evidence in court. The Interior ministry supports the notion of retrieving data from such technologies, while the Justice ministry says that “limits set by the protection of the most personal spaces…should not circumvented by any technology.”

Staying in Germany, the country’s auction for 5G spectrum came to an end yesterday, raising nearly to €6.6bn. The four successful bidders include Deutsche Telekom, which spent €2.2bn, Vodafone (€1.9bn), Telefónica (€1.4bn) and Drillisch (€1.1bn).

Still in the bloc (just), the UK has been jockeying for position in the EU’s digital race this week, as it hosts its annual London Tech Week. The Mayor of the Capital has spoken about the risks to the tech sector stemming from Brexit, Digital secretary Jeremy Wright has rallied the importance of AI, and the government has announced a £40 million fund for 5G development.


On My Radar

Heads of state gather in Brussels next week for another EU Council Summit. A Brexit-free zone it probably won’t be (shameful self-promotion: Check out my exclusive interview with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon), but EU leaders will also be discussing how to bolster the EU’s cybersecurity standing.


What else I’m reading this week:

Upcoming events

Keep an eye out for our high-level event on Media Policy presented by Fondation EURACTIV, coming up towards the end of June at the European Parliament.

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