Recent Stories

Green MEP Trüpel argues she didn’t vote in favour of upload filters

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.

Nine Green MEPs voted in favour of upload filters

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.

European Commission releases some EU-South Korea trade negotiation documents

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).

EU-Japan trade agreement enables Internet of Cheating Things

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 wants ISDS under U.S. and Dutch influence

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.

EU-Japan trade agreement’s intellectual property chapter limits options for reform

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.

EU-Singapore trade agreement not compatible with EU data protection

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.

European Commission compromises on cross-border data protection

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.

EU-Japan trade agreement not compatible with EU data protection

Update April 2018

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.

EU about to break the internet – Copyright

The EU Court of Justice declared that proactive filtering by internet access providers and internet hosting providers is illegal. 1 Yet, the EU copyright proposal includes such upload filtering. Over 80 organisations warn:

“The signatories warn the Member states that the discussion around the Copyright Directive are on the verge of causing irreparable damage to our fundamental rights and freedoms, our economy and competitiveness, our education and research, our innovation and competition, our creativity and our culture.”

To show the substance behind that sentence, the letter refers in an annex to 29 letters and analyses sent previously by various European stakeholders and experts for more details. A call to action

The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee will vote on the proposal on 25 January. Unfortunately, in this lead committee a significant majority is in favor of upload filters.

Reject CETA

Update: The European Parliament gave consent to CETA. It failed to defend democracy. Now national parliaments will have to decide on CETA. There may also be referendums and court cases. See also EDRi’s press release; procedure file; INTA report; roll call vote (point 1, A8-0009/2017).

Multilateral investment court assessment obscures social and environmental impacts

This FFII position paper provides feedback on the inception impact assessment “Convention to establish a multilateral court on investment” (IIA). See below or the pdf. For the related consultation see here. The IIA’s baseline scenario – what will happen without policy changes – is just one sentence long and does not expect a multilateral investment court (MIC) to have social or environmental impacts. The paper presents more comprehensive baseline and multilateral investment court scenarios.

New ISDS consultation seems surreal

The European Commission has launched a consultation on an investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) variant: a multilateral investment court. 1 In an email the commission confirms the consultation has a narrow scope. The commission does not want feedback on the system as a whole. This way the system’s social and environmental impacts may go unmentioned in the consultation results. This is irresponsible, as the system as a whole will strengthen investments vis-à-vis democracy and fundamental rights This undermines our values and ability to respond to crises, including climate change.

Consultation on ISDS successor obscures impacts

The EU commission has launched a consultation on a multilateral investment court (MIC), an investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) variant. 1 The commission does not expect a multilateral investment court to cause social or environmental impacts. 2 This is remarkable as the current ISDS system causes serious impacts. And even worse, the consultation seems designed to obscure the social and environmental impacts. In an email to the commission I explained the issues and asked to publish a more meaningful Inception Impact Assessment and consultation.

Multilateral investment court would impede measures on climate change

The European Commission has launched a consultation on a multilateral investment court (MIC). The MIC would be a successor to investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Mankind faces an existential threat: climate change. The data is disconcerting and shows our societies are not on top of the issue. Further reforms are needed; reforms will harm vested interests.

A disappointing TTIP human rights assessment

ECORYS published a final draft human rights assessment of the trade agreement with the US (TTIP). The official name is a Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment (TSIA). I provided feedback on an earlier draft, see here. In my opinion, the final draft is disappointing. I will give two examples.

European Parliament resolution: check legality ISDS/ICS in CETA

Members of the European Parliament want the EU’s Court of Justice to check whether a parallel legal system in the trade agreement with Canada (CETA) is compatible with the EU treaties. The parallel legal system, known as ISDS / ICS, is only accessible to foreign investors. Eighty-nine members tabled a resolution. The Parliament will vote next week, Wednesday 23 November 2016. According to associations of judges (one, two), academics (letter from over 100 law professors) and NGOs (ClientEarth, two pager), the ISDS / ICS parallel legal system is not compatible with the EU treaties.

MEP Schaake unconvincingly defends ISDS in CETA

Member of the European Parliament Marietje Schaake used harsh words on Wallonia for (temporarily) blocking the signing of the EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA): unbelievable, shameful political opportunism, really incomprehensible. In the press release she also defended the inclusion in CETA of investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS), a parallel legal system for multinational investors. In this blog I will argue that Schaake supports an approach that puts at risk democracy and the rule of law. Schaake is the liberal groups’s (ALDE) spokesperson on trade. Wallonia has seriously looked at CETA for years.

A deceitful attempt to get CETA signed

Update: new version of Declaration, see below

The European Commission and Canadian government work on a “Joint Interpretative Declaration” that should convince governments that have doubts about signing the EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA). The Declaration does not change CETA’s text. It does not give a clarification of provisions. Take the first paragraph of the section on Investment Protection:

“CETA includes modern rules on investment that preserve the right of governments to regulate in the public interest including when such regulations affect a foreign investment, while ensuring a high level of protection for investments and providing for fair and transparent dispute resolution. CETA will not result in foreign investors being treated more favourably than domestic investors.”

Broken data protection in EU trade agreements

The study “Trade and Privacy: Complicated Bedfellows? How to achieve data protection-proof free trade agreements” is remarkable. On the one hand it shows, beyond doubt, that the EU fails to sufficiently protect personal data in its trade agreements. On the other hand, one of the safeguards it recommends could leave our personal data more vulnerable. Monique Goyens, Director General of The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), commented:

It’s unacceptable that the EU’s privacy and data protection rules could be challenged through trade policy.

European Commission publishes Privacy Shield

The European Commission has published its Privacy Shield decision together with a Communication. The Privacy Shield will govern the transatlantic commercial flow of personal data from Europe. The European Commission follows up of its previous Safe Harbour decision that was turned down by the European Court of Justice in its Schrems decision. The core of Privacy Shield is hidden in provision 61:

(61) In the light of the information in this section, the Commission considers that the Principles issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce as such ensure a level of protection of personal data that is essentially equivalent to the one guaranteed by the substantive basic principles laid down in Directive 95/46/EC

Earlier published drafts of the document stated “as a whole”. Unpublished Commission drafts previously unlawfully obtained by Politico.eu and made available to their paid subscribers also contain the “as such” wording.

UPC and ISDS: who would have to pay the damages awards?

Investment lawyer Pratyush Nath Upreti argues that investors will be able to use investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) to challenge decisions of the Unified Patent Court (UPC). [1] Investors could for instance use a Dutch bilateral investment treaty to challenge UPC decisions. Upreti identifies Dutch investment treaties as suitable for treaty shopping and warns for more frivolous IP litigation in investor-to-state dispute settlement. This raises a question. Who would bear the litigation costs and damages awards?

FFII comments on TTIP human rights assessment

ECORYS has published a draft human rights assessment (sustainability impact assessment) on the trade agreement being negotiated between the EU and the United States (TTIP). Today the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) has sent an email to ECORYS noting issues regarding intellectual property rights, investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS / ICS), data protection, and openness. Footnotes per section, text continues after footnotes. Intellectual property rights

The word “ACTA” does not appear once in the draft report. ACTA analysis has shown that intellectual property rights enforcement may seriously threaten fundamental rights at various levels.

CETA: ISDS and data protection

This is the fourth in a series of blogs on the EU-Canada trade agreement (CETA) and data protection. In earlier blogs we saw that under the CETA text Canada can give our personal data related to financial services, transfered to Canada, a lower protection than under the standard set by the Court of Justice of the EU in the Safe Harbour ruling. This is relevant as Canada is a member of the “Five Eyes”, a group of countries committed to (suspicionless) mass surveillance. We also saw that CETA does not allow data protection measures based on a higher data protection standard than agreed in CETA. Textual shortcomings especially become clear in conflict situations.

CETA ISDS not conform European Parliament resolution

In February 2016 the European Commission and Canadian government published the final draft text of the EU – Canada trade agreement (CETA). This final draft includes an investment chapter with investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). ISDS is one of the most controversial elements of proposed EU trade agreements as it gives foreign investors the right to challenge government decisions outside local courts. The ISDS section in CETA is based on the 12 November 2015 ISDS proposal for TTIP. According to Germany’s largest association of judges and public prosecutors (original in German) and the European association of judges the adjudicators would not be independent.