EU Policy Team

COMMUNIA, the voice for public domain, celebrates 10. anniversary

Advocating for a better internet for all, we wouldn’t go far without our partners and collaborators. COMMUNIA International Association On the Digital Public Domain, where we are a member, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this week.

Distinct profile, great results

In the digital rights bubble COMMUNIA is unique: its focus on digital public domain stems not from it running projects based on the use of these resources but because public domain – like any public good – requires preservation and protection. One could say that copyright is only a short break in the continuum of human creative heritage. However, with the creative industry’s insatiable appetite to expand and extend copyright (we are looking at you, Disney) there is a need for a targeted effort to keep public domain accessible to everyone.

These issues may seem abstract, but when we think of such classics as Anne Frank Diary and the absurdities of its release into public domain, we can see how important this work is. If that doesn’t convince you, think of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry– the story of extending the French copyright for works by authors that died during World War II is still one of the most read COMMUNIA articles.

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How the DSA can help Wikipedia – or at least not hurt it

The Digital Services Act is probably the most consequential dossier of the current EU legislative term.  It will most likely become a formative set of rules on content moderation for the internet. It also means that it will shape the way Wikipedia and its sister projects operate. One can only hope that the DSA doesn’t try to fix what isn’t broken, specifically our community-based content moderation model. What are the scenarios?

A quick history of recent platform liability legislation

One of the reasons why the DSA became a thing, is the growing conviction that online intermediaries – from social media, through various user-generated content hosting platforms, to online marketplaces – will not fix the problems with illegal content through voluntary actions. In the previous legislative term we saw two proposals to change the responsibilities and liability of platforms. The focus was on types of content: copyrighted material (in the infamous Directive in Copyright in the Digital Single Market) and so-called terrorist content (in the Regulation on Dissemination of Terrorist content Online, or TERREG, with its final vote on April 28). 

The topical focus has its limitations, such as the number of legal regimes one platform would need to conform to simultaneously. This time around, the European Commission wants to impose rules on platforms that would cover all sorts of an intermediaries, content and services. 

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Terrorist content and Avia Law – implications of constitutionality of TERREG in France

Analysis

In the first of series of longer features on our blog, we study the implications of national court ruling on the future of an EU regulation: in this case on TERREG.

In June 2020, France’s Constitutional Court issued a decision that contradicts most key aspects of the EU proposal for a regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online – but also gave EU legislators specific tools to prevent drafting legislations pertaining to content regulation that would directly contradict fundamental rights and national constitutional requirements.

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Introduction

Over the course of the past two years, France had a lively debate on a draft bill to combat hate speech online (the so-called Avia law). The debate mainly revolved around imposing stricter content removal obligations for both platforms and other intermediaries such as hosting providers. The final law, passed in May 2020, included the obligation for hosting providers to remove terrorist content and child sex abuse material within the hour of receiving a blocking order by an administrative authority. The law also foresaw a 24-hour deadline for platforms to remove hate speech content, based on flagging by either a user, or trusted flaggers – based on the platforms’ own judgement and with the help of technical measures. This content removal activity was supposed to be subject to guidelines that were to be established by the French Media Regulator (CSA). 

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