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We are pleased to introduce our fifth media law newsletter. This month, we cover GDPR fines, “scam ads” on Facebook, the EU’s new (and controversial) Copyright Directive and developments on the lawfulness of territorial restrictions on the distribution of content.
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French data protection authority fines Google a record-breaking €50m
The French National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) announced on 21 January 2019 that it had levied a €50m fine, the largest ever for a breach of EU data protection laws, in relation to Google’s use of its users’ personal data. The CNIL said that Google had not been sufficiently transparent and clear with users, and that there was an absence of valid consent for personalised adverts. Its criticisms of Google included that essential information on how personal data would be used was “excessively disseminated across several documents”.
Google is used to having its feet held to the fire over data protection, and the level of the fine will hardly trouble a company worth almost $800bn. Nevertheless, the sum is significant and sets a marker for the new data protection regime imposed by the GDPR, as well as for other data protection authorities across Europe. The maximum fine under the GDPR is €20m or 4% of the total annual worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year, whichever is higher. The theoretical maximum fine for Google was almost €4bn.
Martin Lewis settles Facebook claim over “scam ads” with the company agreeing to give £3m to a new project
Consumer champion Martin Lewis sued Facebook for defamation in the High Court over the appearance of adverts featuring his face and/or name on the social network that falsely indicated his endorsement of them.
Mr Lewis and Facebook recently announced that the proceedings had been settled, with Facebook agreeing to donate £3m to Citizens Advice and introduce a new “scam ads reporting tool” to the UK version of Facebook with a dedicated support team.
The donation is far above what any English court is likely to have awarded, indicating that Facebook is keen to protect the reputation of its business following a series of events that tarnished its brand, including the Cambridge Analytica scandal that broke in the press in March 2018.
EU presses on with new copyright directive
The EU has reached political agreement in relation to the new (and controversial) Copyright Directive. The draft Directive will be subject to further votes in the European Parliament and European Council, which will decide whether it becomes law. The new Directive forms part of the EU’s strategy to create “copyright rules fit for the digital era”.
Under the proposed Directive, Article 11 (referred to by detractors as the “Link Tax”, because it may mean that services such as Google News have to pay to link to news websites where the ‘snippets’ used include more than a very limited number of words from the original article’s body or title) will proceed, and Article 13 (requiring services such as YouTube and Facebook to prevent copyright infringement on their platforms, and referred to by critics as the “upload filter”) will apply to all for-profit platforms except those which are less than 3 years old, have annual turnover of less than €10m and have less than 5m monthly unique visitors.
As may be expected, organisations that will be affected by the proposed law, such as Google, are highly vocal and critical of it, saying that it will “change the web as we know it”.
Territorial licensing of content – Copyright vs. Competition law
Last month, we reported that the EU’s General Court had handed down its decision in the Pay TV case. By way of summary, Canal+ had challenged the European Commission’s decision to accept commitments from the US studio Paramount in relation to its investigation into the distribution of Pay TV content in Europe. Given the fundamental importance of territorial licensing of content to the media sector, here is an update on the law in this area.
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