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CJEU Dismisses Polish Action Against Article 17 DCDSM But Stresses Importance of User Safeguards

Brussels, BELGIUM – Today, 26 April, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) issued its highly anticipated ruling (CJEU press releasejudgement) in the case initiated in 2019 by the Polish government seeking the annulment of Article 17(4)(b) and (4)(c) of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (DCDSM) (Case C-401/19).

The following statement can be attributed to Ms Caroline De Cock, Coalition for Creativity (C4C) coordinator:

“It is reassuring to see the attention the Court has given to the many safeguards put in place by the EU legislators in Article 17 in order to ensure the respect of the right to freedom of expression and information of users of platforms qualified as OCSSPs. This emphasis, as well as the reiteration of the general monitoring prohibition, must now be reflected in the national transpositions of Member States, which must deliver the fair balance between fundamental rights that the Court considers crucial for Article 17 to be deemed legal.”

C4C is a broad-based coalition that seeks an informed debate on how copyright can more effectively promote innovation, access, and creativity. C4C brings together libraries, scientific and research institutions, digital rights groups, technology businesses, and educational and cultural heritage institutions that share a common view on copyright.

For press inquiries on this please contact Ms De Cock at secretariat@coalition4creativity.org or +32 474 84 05 15.

[Note: We are still analysing the judgement and reserve the right to update.]


The CJEU ruling summarised in one image

Other relevant resources:

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C4C Statement on the Political Agreement on the EU Digital Services Act (DSA)

Following the political agreement reached between the EU institutions during the 5th and final trilogue negotiations on the Digital Services Act (DSA) on 22-23 April, the Coalition for Creativity (C4C) would like to express its initial disappointment about potential pitfalls in this regulation.

Ms Caroline De Cock, C4C Coordinator, said:

“The DSA political agreement lacks user safeguards and continues to push vague concepts open to dangerous misinterpretations. The pursuit of a quick deal under the French Council Presidency, ahead of the 2nd round of the Presidential elections, at the expense of upholding fundamental rights is questionable at best and counterproductive at worst.

Last minute attempts by certain stakeholders to transform search engines in dangerous censorship tools were thankfully deflected, even though one has to wonder how these repeated jabs at freedom of speech are even allowed to pop up.

Once again, users have been left out and sidelined in a debate on important concepts, such a preserving their freedom of expression and access to information online. One can only hope that the DSA will not end up empowering less democratic regimes to exercise control over the speech of citizens outside of their Member State borders.

The EU has once more failed in truly stepping up to the plate in its role as a global actor and a guardian of fundamental rights. One can only fear the ripple effects the DSA will have on the policy agendas of other geographies, as has been notably evidenced following the adoption of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market and national legislation, such as the German NetzDG.

This is notably the case with the introduction of a crisis mechanism that could potentially be easily misused.

The expected compliance burden will be so high that the DSA risks consolidating Big Tech’s position to the detriment of smaller players, annihilating any positive market effects stemming from the DMA.

It remains to be seen if the SME exemption recognizes the need to recognizes the need to handle not-for-profit players, such as educational and scientific repositories, digital archives and libraries, differently, or merely creates a gaping loophole to the sole benefit of commercial entities.

Finally, C4C believes that in fine-tuning and applying the rules in practice, the European Commission and national regulators will need to ask and listen to the input of civil society, especially as it pertains to key fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and access to information.”

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C4C-Liberties Joint Op-Ed ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes’

On 19 April, Eva Simon, senior advocacy officer at the Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties), and Caroline De Cock, C4C Coordinator, co-wrote an op-ed published on EURACTIV on the problems surrounding filtering ahead of the crucial and determining 5th trilogue on the Digital Services Act (DSA) on 22 April 2022. The op-ed has also been translated in German by EURACTIV. Highlighted quotes below.

Liberties (@LibertiesEU) is a European network of independent non-governmental organisations which aims to safeguard the human rights of everyone in the European Union. 

The Coalition for Creativity (@_C4C_) brings together libraries, scientific and research institutions, digital rights groups, technology businesses, and educational and cultural heritage institutions that share a common view on copyright. 


Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes

The Digital Services Act (DSA) must protect our rights by including meaningful safeguards to uphold the fundamental rights of internet users, especially for those engaged in the indispensable work of documenting war crimes. 

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

In the case of the Syrian Archive, inaccurate automated tools removed the videos because these lacked understanding of linguistic or cultural nuances, and could not differentiate between journalistic resources and war propaganda. That contextual blindness still exists in today’s automated content moderation tools, and they still lead to situations where completely legitimate content is wrongfully made inaccessible.

We must learn from these mistakes, and ensure that journalists, activists, or anyone else can share their opinions or (video) evidence without the threat of it disappearing, simply because online platforms are coerced into implementing poorly working automation tools.

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

The DSA requires Big Tech companies to introduce risk analysis to predict and mitigate the negative effects on the exercise of fundamental rights, such as privacy, free speech, the prohibition of discrimination or the rights of minors. This should not be interpreted as requiring the mandatory use of automation.

Similarly, under no circumstances should co-regulatory measures such as the Code of Practice on disinformation impose pressure on online platforms to remove content so swiftly that it would necessitate the intensified deployment of automated tools.  

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

The DSA must protect our rights by including meaningful safeguards to uphold the fundamental rights of internet users. It must also maintain the prohibition of general monitoring obligations, let that be automated or non-automated. Also, it should certainly not impose, either directly or implicitly, the use of mandatory upload filters or other content moderation automation.​​

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

The DSA must preserve users’ privacy online and the continued prohibition against general monitoring by online platforms is an essential element thereof. In parallel, the ability to use the internet anonymously and through encrypted services offers crucial safeguards against monitoring. Such safeguards are in the text proposed by the European Parliament but now need to be embraced by the Council too. 

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)

The DSA is going through the final stages of the trilogue negotiations. As the European Parliament rightfully recognizes in its mandate, it is crucial to prohibit the mandatory use of upload filters. Such prohibition is the only way to avoid disproportionate limitations on access to information, freedom of expression and personal data protection.

Caroline De Cock & Eva Simon – ‘Ukraine: The DSA cannot let filters blind us to war crimes‘ (EURACTIV, 19 April 2022)