ODPC publishes guidance on the GDPR

The ODPC has published guidance, The GDPR and You - Preparing for 2018, to help organisations prepare for the GDPR. It contains a checklist to provide companies with a practical starting point to ensure full compliance by May 2018. It is important for organisations to start taking steps to prepare now, to ensure that adequate policies and procedures are in place to deal with the new rules when they come into force.  Organisations will face hefty fines for non-compliance, and the risk of individuals bringing private claims for breach of their data privacy rights.

The Article 29 Working Party (consisting of representatives of national data protection authorities) is also expected to shortly issue guidance at European level on Data Protection Officers, Data Portability, and Designation of Lead Supervisory Authority.

New legislation on interception of communications

 

The Department of Justice and Equality have published a policy document on amending the law relating to the interception of communications. The purpose of interception legislation is to assist in the fight against organised crime and to protect the security of the State.

Irish legislation relating to interception is out-of-date and needs to be amended to provide for lawful interception of email and other forms of communication over the internet. Interception is controlled, to a limited extent, by the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983, and the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications (Regulation) Act 1993. That legislation is restricted to Telecoms and Postal Service providers (i.e. voice calls, text messages and postal packets). 

The Government intends to introduce approximately 50 amendments to the current regime, with the primary aim of ensuring that communications services delivered over the internet are covered by our lawful interception legislation.  Accordingly, the definition of "information society services" will be amended to cover "internet referencing services, social media", and "any other entity providing a publicly available means of communication over an electronic communications network." The definition of "interception" will also be amended to reflect modern communications characteristics.  It will essentially be "an action, the effect of which is to make some or all of the content of a communication available to a person". 

The Government intends to request the Law Reform Commission to carry out a review of the law on investigatory powers relating to communications, which will give interested parties an opportunity to provide their perspective on this issue.  It is likely, however, that the LRC report will come after the current proposals have been implemented.

 

UK will say "Yes" to UPC

The UK has confirmed today that it intends to ratify the International Agreement on a Unified Patent Court. The Minister of State for Energy and Intellectual Property, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, reportedly made the statement at a meeting of the EU Competitive Council.

There has been much commentary on the political and legal challenges the UK would face in joining the system post-Brexit. It does remain the possibility that the UK could join the system and then be ejected, something which is most likely to be determined post-Brexit. 

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CJEU rules IP addresses may constitute personal data

On 19 October 2016, the CJEU ruled, in Breyer v Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Case C-582/14), that dynamic IP addresses may constitute "personal data" under the Data Protection Directive, where a website operator has the legal means of identifying the visitor by use of additional information held about him/her by the ISP.  The decision confirms the stance taken by the Scarlet Extended (Case C-70/10) (at para. 51), where the CJEU essentially held that IP addresses are "personal data" because they allow those users to be precisely identified. However, that finding by the CJEU related to the situation in which the collection and identification of the IP addresses of internet users is carried out by ISPs.

The CJEU's decision in Breyer is, however, at odds with the approach taken by the Irish High Court, in EMI Records v Eircom [2010] IEHC 108, which held that IP addresses were not personal data in the hands of record companies.

Although the decision does not refer to pseudonymous data, it supports the view of Article 29 Working Party and the Irish Data Protection Commissioner, that pseudonymous data, such as key-coded data, which allows identification using indirect means, may be "personal data" and fall within the remit of the Directive.

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A&L Goodbody Guide on the EU General Data Protection Regulation

On 5th October 2016, our IP & Technology team hosted a seminar on the new EU General Data Regulation (GDPR), which takes effect from 25 May 2018.  The Data Protection Commissioner, Helen Dixon, gave a keynote address at the event, which was followed by commentary from our IP and Technology Partners, John Whelan, John Cahir, Mark Rasdale and Claire Morrissey. 

The GDPR introduces substantial changes to EU data protection law.  Companies have 19 months remaining in which to make preparations for the GDPR, but given its extra-territorial scope; new concepts such as accountability and privacy by design and default; enhanced rights of data subjects, and severe financial penalties for non-compliance, it is important for businesses to start taking steps now to review and revise their data protection policies and procedures as appropriate. 

To assist businesses with understanding the key changes introduced by the GDPR, its likely impact, and action points to consider, A& L Goodbody have prepared a Guide for Businesses which is available to download from our website:

The GDPR: A Guide for Businesses

The Central Bank of Ireland publishes new Cross Industry Guidance on IT and Cybersecurity Risks

On 13 September 2016, the Central Bank of Ireland (the CBI) published new guidance on IT risk management and cybersecurity for financial service firms. Publication of the Guidance follows the CBI's previous actions in relation to cyber risks in the funds, insurance and banking sectors (see previous blog here). The CBI acknowledges that IT plays an integral part in the supply of financial services and calls on Boards and Senior Management of regulated firms to recognise the ever increasing incidences of cyber-attacks and business interruptions. It requests such firms to acknowledge their responsibilities in this regard and prioritise IT security. This responsibility involves establishing and maintaining a resilient IT strategy, while ensuring that it aligns with the firm's general business strategy. It states that a robust oversight and engagement on IT matters at the Board and Senior Management level promotes an IT and security risk aware culture within the firm.

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ISP not required to remove defamatory statements

The High Court in Muwema v Facebook Ireland Ltd [2016] IEHC 519 held that Facebook had no duty to remove defamatory content posted by an anonymous third party. Justice Binchy did, however, make a Norwich Pharmacal order requiring Facebook to disclose the identity and location of the person operating the page involved.

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CJEU finds linking to freely available but unauthorised content may not constitute copyright infringement

In GS Media v Sanoma Media Netherlands and Others (C-160/15), the CJEU held that the posting of a hyperlink on a website, giving access to copyright-protected work on another website, will not constitute a "communication to the public" under Article 3(1) of the Copyright Directive 2001/29/EC, if the person posting the link did not do so to seek financial gain, and did not know that the hyperlink was published illegally without the consent of the copyright holder.  In contrast, if a hyperlink is provided for profit, knowledge of the illegality of the publication on the other website must be presumed.

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Free WiFi providers not liable for users' copyright infringements

The CJEU has confirmed the AG's Opinion, in McFadden v Sony Music Entertainment Germany (C-484/14),  that operators of a free Wi-Fi service, who offer that service to the public, are not liable for copyright infringements committed by users of that network. However, such an operator may be required to password-protect its network in order to bring an end to, or prevent, such infringements.

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High Court refuses oral hearing of complaint to Data Protection Commissioner

In Martin v Data Protection Commissioner [2016] IEHC 479, Mr Martin sought to challenge the Data Protection Commissioner's (DPC) refusal to investigate disputed facts of his data protection complaint via an oral hearing. The High Court held that the DPC was not empowered to hold an oral hearing under the Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC or the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003 (the Acts), even where there is a conflict of evidence. Furthermore, the requirements of natural and constitutional justice do not confer an inherent power on the DPC to do so.

The decision confirms that it cannot be inferred from the Acts, which impose on the DPC a duty to investigate and make a decision in relation to a complaint, that the DPC has the power to conduct an oral hearing. Individuals do, however, have a right to appeal a decision of the DPC to the Circuit Court where an oral hearing can take place.

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Potential light at the end of the wifi tunnel

An Advocate General of the CJEU has expressed his opinion that operators of a free Wi-Fi service, who offer that service to the public, will be protected by the mere conduit defence under the E-Commerce Directive and will therefore not be liable for copyright infringement committed by users of that network. Advocate General Szpunar has published his opinion in response to a series of questions posed to the CJEU in Case C-484/14 Tobias McFadden v Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH. The case came about following an illegal download of a musical work in 2010, which prompted Sony to bring an action for damages and injunctive relief against Mr. McFadden - the operator of a business selling and renting lighting and sound systems near Munich which offered the free Wi-Fi network accessible to the public (over which the music work was unlawfully downloaded).

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CJEU delivers judgment on applicable data protection law

On 28 July 2016, the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU), in VKI v Amazon EU Sárl (Case C-191/15) reconfirmed its earlier decision in Weltimmo (C-230/14) regarding the test for applicable law in relation to data processing activities.

The CJEU held that the processing of personal data by an undertaking engaged in electronic commerce is governed by the law of the Member State to which it directs its activities, if the undertaking carries out the data processing in question "in the context of the activities" of an establishment situated in that Member State.  It is for the national court to determine whether that is the case.  The fact that the undertaking does not have a branch or subsidiary in that Member State does not preclude it from having an establishment there.  The degree of stability of the arrangements and the effective exercise of activities in the Member State in question must be assessed. 

The CJEU also held that a standard term choosing a seller or supplier's law as governing law is unfair within the meaning of the Unfair Consumer Contracts Directive (93/13/EEC).  As a result companies will need to consider whether their standard choice of law clauses in Business to Consumer contracts are unfair and therefore invalid.

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Advocate General advises that obligation to retain data imposed by a Member State on electronic communications service providers may be compatible with EU law

The Advocate General has given his Opinion in a case concerning the interpretation to be given in a national context to the judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) in 2014 in Digital Rights Ireland (which found the EU Data Retention Directive to be invalid). The Advocate General found that an obligation to retain data imposed by a Member State on providers of electronic communication services may be compatible with EU law, subject to strict requirements.

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Privacy Shield - Not likely to be challenged by EU DPAs for at least one year

The Article 29 Working Party (WP29) has issued a Press Release indicating it still has concerns about the Privacy Shield.  However it appears that the WP29 (consisting of representatives of the EU Data Protection Authorities) will refrain from challenging the Privacy Shield until after mid-2017. 
 

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Court of Appeal confirms jurisdiction to order ISPs to take action against copyright infringement

On 28th July 2016, the Irish Court of Appeal, in Sony Music Entertainment (Ireland) Ltd. & Ors v UPC Communications Ireland Ltd. [2016] IECA 231, confirmed that national courts have jurisdiction to grant graduated response system (GRS) injunctions against innocent intermediaries, such as ISPs, in response to alleged copyright infringement. This is the first GRS order of its kind made anywhere in the EU. 

The Court held that Article 8(3) of the Information Society Directive (2001/29/EC) (the 2001 Directive), implemented in Ireland by section 40(5A) of the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000, provided the jurisdiction to grant such orders. Article 8(3) requires Member States to ensure that rightholders are in a position to apply for an injunction against intermediaries whose services are used by a third party to infringe a copyright or related right.

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