Online services directive

The EU directive on “online services” (or “eCommerce directive”), adopted in 2000, covers many topics. Most importantly, the directive protects freedom of communication and privacy, by granting Internet access providers, hosting services as well as other online publishing platforms the status of simple “technical intermediaries”. As such, these Internet actors cannot be forced to monitor their users' communications, or be held liable for their users' activities.

Under the pressure of various lobbies, these crucial principles are being undermined. Technical intermediaries are increasingly compelled, through legislative measures or case law, to implement systems for taking down content or filtering communications, in gross contradiction with freedom of expression and privacy. In the face of these threats, the protective framework created by the ”online services” directive must be reasserted and further detailed, so as to ensure a presumption of legality for any online publication and to protect the right to a fair trial.

Timeline

Future

  • Initially planned for 2012 - EU Commission will collect fact and figures on notice-and-takedown practices across the EU in view of an impact assessment.

Past

  • February 16th, 2012 - SABAM vs. Netlog decision by EUCJ, who rules that forcing a hosting service to monitor and filter online content violates EU law.
  • January 11th, 2012 - EU Commission releases a communication on the digital single market, and announces an initiative for a "horizontal approach" on notice-and-action.
  • November 24th, 2011 - SABAM vs. Scarlet decision by the EUCJ, who rules that forcing ISPs to monitor and block their users' communication violates EU law.
  • November 7th, 2010 - Public consultation launched by the EU Commission on the "Online Services" directive ends.
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