TMT Trends to Watch – Q4 2019

TMT Trends to Watch – Q4 2019

As part of our sector-focused series, we have spoken with our in-house Telecoms, Media & Technology (TMT) PSLs to outline the key legal trends to watch as 2019 draws to a close.


1. Online harms proposal faces criticism over freedom of speech


The government Online Harms White Paper is facing heavy criticism which focuses on the lack of clarity in the definition of key terms and the potential impact on freedom of speech.

The paper outlines the government’s plans to establish a statutory duty of care - which the government itself acknowledges would be a global first - to ensure that companies safeguard online users and tackle harm caused by activity on their services. Companies will be held to account by an independent regulator who will be tasked with issuing codes of practice.

One of the main concerns is that the paper proposes no definition of the ‘harm’ that must be prevented. In fact, it seems to be the government’s intention to avoid a static or fixed list which might hamper the new regulator’s efforts to address evolving forms of harm.

This means that it will be up to the regulator to decide and places great power in its hands. Used improperly, there could be a significant adverse impact on freedom of speech, privacy or the right of individuals to access legitimate content online.

The government is currently considering the responses to its consultation on the paper and has indicated that it plans to bring forward legislation when time allows.




2. Tech platforms liable for copyright violations by users


Since the Digital Single Market Copyright Directive was published in the Official Journal in June this year, Article 17 has hit the headlines on several occasions as a blocker for those posting content online.

Article 17 states that content-sharing services, such as YouTube, must correctly license copyright-protected material from the rights holders. Effectively, a tech platform, such as YouTube will be targeted with claims of infringement for any uploaded content that violates copyright rules.

Article 17 makes it clear that no ‘general monitoring obligation’ is placed on platforms, they must act ‘expeditiously, upon receiving a sufficiently substantiated notice from the right holders, to disable access to, or to remove from, their webs

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