Ofcom confirms removal of fax machine from universal service obligation, Belgian APD Litigation Chamber approves action plan of IAB Europe and more in this week's round-up of key UK and EU techlaw news developments not covered elsewhere on the SCL website.
Ofcom confirms removal of fax machine from universal service obligation
Following its consultation last year, Ofcom has confirmed the removal of fax machine services from the universal service obligation (USO). As digital technology and broadband services have developed, the fax machine has been overtaken by email and document sharing software that offer the same or better functionality. As a result, Ofcom will remove the requirement for BT and KCOM to provide fax services under the USO. The current USO was set out in 2003, when fax machines were more prevalent and email and instant messaging were less ubiquitous. So, at that time it was important the USO required BT and KCOM to provide fax services. Almost 20 years later, and the telecoms landscape has changed. Not only are alternatives to fax machines now more widely available, migration of telephone networks to internet protocol (IP) technology means fax services can no longer be guaranteed to work in the same way. Ofcom says that this change does not mean fax services will stop working immediately, but current fax users should look for alternatives (such as email).
APD Litigation Chamber approves action plan of IAB Europe
The Litigation Chamber of the Belgian DPA has informed IAB Europe that it has approved its action plan to bring the processing of personal data under the Transparency and Consent Framework into compliance with the GDPR. On 2 February 2022, the Litigation Chamber had found a series of breaches of the GDPR by IAB Europe, and had ordered the company to submit an action plan for the implementation of corrective measures. After postponing the validation of the action plan due to the appeal procedure before the Market Court, which decided to refer questions to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling without annulling the February decision, the Litigation Chamber has now formally validated the action plan. IAB Europe now has a maximum period of six months to implement the proposed measures.
European Commission issues call for evidence on combatting online content piracy
The European Commission has launched a call for evidence about an initiative to help broadcasters and live events organisers combat online piracy of live content. It seeks experience and evidence from all relevant stakeholders on the online piracy of live events and on the functioning of the relevant EU and national rules, in particular on the extent of unauthorised retransmission online of live events; the processing of notices by online intermediaries in the case of live events; the efficiency of dynamic and live blocking injunctions, and the accompanying procedural safeguards ensuring fundamental rights; the practices and challenges of addressing unauthorised retransmission of live events affecting several member states; the role of national competent authorities, in particular in the use of dynamic and live blocking injunctions, and experience of or opportunities for cross border cooperation. The consultation ends on 10 February 2023.
EDPS issues opinion on proposal for an Interoperable Europe Act
The EDPS has issued its opinion on the proposal for an interoperable Europe Act. The EDPS acknowledges the benefits that can be derived from increased interoperability in the public sector. However, the EDPS also considers that that interoperability affects a fundamental principle of data protection, purpose limitation. It says that it is therefore crucial that the risks that are being created by removing technical barriers to information exchange are considered. Therefore, the EDPS welcomes the requirement for the Commission to consult the EDPS before authorising the establishment of regulatory sandboxes. The EDPS also recommends considering use cases for the regulatory sandboxes that meet the standard of necessity and if no such causes can be identified, to remove the legal basis for personal data processing from the proposal. The EDPS further identifies provisions that do not have regulatory content and proposes that they are amended to add value. Further, the EDPS suggests that additional safeguards are introduced to ensure that test data does not become data in the production environment, especially not after enriching it with data from sandbox participants.
EPO says that technical contribution not negated because of business analogy
In T 1158/17 Routing electronic message/ESCHER GROUP an appeals board of the European Patent Office reversed a decision by the examining division. The appeals board considered that a similarity to a business or administrative solution is not a sufficient reason for denying a technical contribution of a claim feature applied in a technical context and involving technical considerations. Technical considerations in the technical context cannot be negated merely based on a non-technical analogy. The case has been returned to the examining division.
MEPs adopt report to better protect online gamers
MEPs have adopted a report to call for harmonised EU rules to better protect online gamers and ensure a safer environment for players. It asks for harmonised rules to give parents a good overview of and control over what games their children play as well as how much time and money they spend playing. MEPs have also said that there needs to be clearer information on the content, in-game purchase policies and target age group of games, possibly like the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) system. They also want to specifically protect minors from prompts to make in-game purchases and from getting involved in so-called gold-farming, that is, the practice of selling items obtained in a game for real money as this can be linked to financial crime and human rights abuses. Additionally, game developers should avoid designing games that feed addiction and should consider children's age, rights and vulnerabilities. MEPs say video game developers should also prioritise data protection, gender balance and the safety of players, and should not discriminate against people with disabilities. They stress that cancelling game subscriptions must be as easy as subscribing to them. Game purchase, return and refund policies should comply with EU rules and national authorities must put an end to illegal practices that allow gamers to exchange, sell or bet on in-game sites. The European Parliament acknowledges the value and potential of the video games sector and wants to support its further development. To this end, MEPs propose setting up an annual European online video game award and ask the Commission to put forward a European Video Game Strategy that would help this creative and cultural sector unlock its full potential.
UNIDROIT consults on Digital Assets and Private Law
The International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) is conducting a public consultation regarding a set of Draft Principles and Commentary on Digital Assets and Private Law. The Principles have been prepared by the Working Group on Digital Assets and Private Law. The consultation aims to raise awareness about the instrument, ensure that the instrument is well suited to application in different contexts, including both civil law and common law jurisdictions, as well as developing economies, emerging markets, and developed economies. It seeks feedback from parties engaged in the digital asset industry, on whether the instrument sufficiently addresses the private law issues that arise in transactions related to digital assets. The consultation ends on 20 February 2023.