This Week’s Techlaw News Round-up

May 10, 2024

UK law

Automated Vehicles Bill ready for Royal Assent

The Automated Vehicles Bill returned to the House of Lords to consider the House of Commons amendments. The House of Commons had proposed 11 amendments to Clauses 40, 43, 89, 93 and 100, as well as amendments to Schedule 1. The Bill has now been passed and awaits Royal Assent.

CCAV publishes government response on self-driving vehicles safety consultation

The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles has published the government’s response to the consultation about a proposed safety ambition for self-driving vehicles. This followed a request for views about the government’s proposal that self-driving vehicles should be expected to achieve an equivalent level of safety to that of a competent and careful human driver. Based on the consultation responses, and after review of the more detailed themes raised by respondents, the safety ambition for self-driving vehicles will be retained as an equivalent level of safety to that of competent and careful human drivers. This was reflected in clause 2 of the Automated Vehicles Bill.

DSIT publishes Online Safety Act 2023 explainer

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology has published an explainer about the Online Safety Act 2023. It sets out how the Act protects users from harmful content online; who the Act applies to and how it is being implemented; the new offences the Act has introduced and the types of content that the Act tackles; how the Act aims to ensure age-appropriate experiences for children online, and gives adults more control over the content they see; how the Act will be enforced and tackles harmful algorithms; and how the Act protects women and girls.

IPO issues updated strategy

The Intellectual Property Office has published its new strategy. It sets out a refreshed mission for the organisation to help people and businesses grow the UK economy by providing an IP system that encourages investment in creativity and innovation. It also sets out the framework of how it will deliver this mission, through high-quality, efficient and accessible services; and policy which supports innovation and the wider economy; through a high-performing organisation with skilled people connected by shared purpose. In addition, it has published its corporate plan.

IPO updates guidance explaining examination of AI inventions

The IPO has also updated its guidelines for examining patent applications relating to AI inventions. The guidelines explain how the exclusions to patentability of the Patents Act 1977 apply to AI inventions. They also look briefly at the requirement for sufficiency of disclosure of AI inventions. The guidelines include an accompanying set of scenarios. Each scenario briefly describes an AI invention and includes a non-binding assessment of the invention in relation to the exclusions to patentability.

Ofcom advises UK government on future of TV distribution

Ofcom has provided the UK government with a report on the future of TV distribution. This is in response to a request from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in 2022 for Ofcom to carry out an early review of market changes that may affect the way content reaches audiences on Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT). Taking account of responses to its earlier call for evidence, research into audience behaviours and analysis of commercial dynamics, Ofcom’s report outlines that people are spending less and less time watching TV broadcast over DTT; changing audience habits and rising costs could force a tipping point within the next decade where investment in DTT cannot be sustained undermining the platform for those who rely on it; and three broad approaches that could sustain the universal availability of TV services. These include investment in a more efficient DTT service, reducing DTT to a core service and moving towards DTT switch-off in the longer term.

EU law

Council of the EU adopts Directive on combating violence against women

The Directive creates the following criminal offences across the EU: female genital mutilation, forced marriage, non-consensual sharing of intimate images, cyber stalking, cyber harassment and cyber incitement to hatred or violence. Committing these crimes will be punishable by prison sentences ranging from at least one to five years. The Directive also comes with an extensive list of aggravating circumstances, such as committing the offence against a child, a former or current spouse or partner or a public representative, a journalist or a human rights defender, which carry more severe penalties. The directive also contains detailed rules on the measures of assistance and protection that member states should provide to victims. Member states have three years from the entry into force of the directive to transpose it into national law.  Some rules are similar to those introduced in the UK under the Online Safety Act.

National authority can access civil identity data linked to IP addresses to investigate online copyright infringement

In La Quadrature du Net and others v Premier Ministre, Ministère de la Culture (Case C-470/21), the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that in certain circumstances a national public authority responsible for combating online counterfeiting may access civil identification data based on an IP address without previously seeking approval from a court or independent authority. The French courts referred a question on identifying those suspected of online copyright infringement. The CJEU considered if Article 15(1) of the E-Privacy Directive (2002/58/EC) (alongside the Charter of Fundamental Human Rights) prevented a French decree claimed to authorise disproportionate access to connection data in relation to suspected online copyright offences that are not serious, without being first reviewed by a judge or independent authority.

European Commission sends X a request for information under the Digital Services Act

The European Commission has sent X a request for information under the Digital Services Act. The request seeks to obtain more details on X’s content moderation activities and resources, on the risk assessment conducted by X in relation to the implementation of generative AI tools in the EU as well as on other areas such as content moderation, risk assessments and mitigation measures linked to the impact of generative AI tools on electoral processes, dissemination of illegal content, and protection of fundamental rights. In December 2023, the Commission opened formal proceedings against X to assess whether X may have breached the DSA in areas linked to risk management, content moderation, dark patterns, advertising transparency and data access for researchers. X must provide the requested information related to content moderation resources and generative AI to the Commission by 17 May 2024, and for the remaining questions by 27 May 2024. Under Article 74 (2) of the DSA, the Commission can impose fines for incorrect, incomplete, or misleading information in response to a request for information.