Blog Intellectual Property and Knowledge Management

Workshop on hosting internet service providers’ liability in the EU

September 10th, 2014 by IPKM blog

What is a hosting internet service provider (ISP)? Maybe you are not familiar with this concept, but I am sure that you know YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. These three popular websites are typical platforms operated by hosting ISPs. Simply speaking, hosting ISPs allow their subscribers to upload contents on their Internet platform and make these contents publicly accessible. For example, you can upload a homemade video on YouTube and then share it with others. However, the public may upload copyrighted materials on YouTube without the permission of the copyright holder. Since users can easily hide their identities on the Internet, which makes it quite difficult for copyright owners to identify them, copyright owners tend to hold YouTube liable for the infringement committed by its users. But can and should YouTube or other hosting ISPs be liable? It is a legal dilemma faced in both the EU and China.

The EU E-commerce Directive enacted in 2000 provides a sort of “safe harbor” for hosting ISPs, and according to it, hosting ISPs can be exempted from paying monetary damage under certain circumstances. However, this harmonization at EU level can only be defined superficial, since it solely deals with liability exemption, but not with basic secondary liability rules. The result is that courts in each member state try to define hosting ISPs’ liability based on their legal traditions but at the same time try to comply with the case decisions delivered by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

In order to improve the communication in the field of hosting ISPs’ liability between EU and China and in order to introduce the latest development of EU jurisprudence into China, we held a workshop on “Secondary liability of hosting Internet Service Providers in the European Union” at Maastricht University on September 8, 2014, with the support of China EU School of Law. During the workshop, not only academics shared their insights on this issue, but also two industrial representatives from the MPAA (Brussels office). After one day of fruitful discussion, one general trend of hosting ISPs’ liability could be identified in the EU: the injunction relief will play a vital role in the coming years. However, how far can an injunction extend? A delicate balance needs to be achieved, which means we should properly balance the interests of copyright holders, hosting ISPs’ freedom to run business and the publics’ legal interests.

If you want to know more about this workshop, you can find the abstracts of each expert’s presentation here.

By Jie Wang, PhD researcher at Maastricht University

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