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The Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, has confirmed that plans to appoint a Digital Safety Commissioner for Ireland (DSC) will go ahead in 2018. The DSC will act as an ‘Internet regulator’, with powers of enforcement and responsibility for a ‘notice and takedown’ regime, to ensure the online safety of Internet users.

The proposal for a DSC is contained in a Report from the Law Reform Commission (LRC) on Harmful Communications and Digital Safety, which also contains a draft legislative proposal. The LRC has recommended that the scope of regulation by the DSC should include all ‘digital service undertakings’, which would be defined very broadly to cover intermediary service providers, internet service providers, internet intermediaries, online intermediaries, online service providers, search engines, social media platforms and websites and telecommunications undertakings.

The DSC mechanism is partially inspired by the systems in place in Australia and New Zealand, which have specific timelines linked to the obligation to unlawful material, with removal generally being required within 48 hours. In Ireland, under the current LRC proposals, the DSC will be mandated to develop a national Code of Practice for Take Down procedure, which would contain detailed and practical guidance on the procedure for ‘takedowns’, a requirement that the takedown procedure is made available free of charge and timelines within which offending materials should be removed.

It should be noted that the Australian and New Zealand regimes were implemented on a somewhat blank legislative canvas. Any proposal in Ireland must be compliant with the overarching requirements of the eCommerce Directive (which does not contain mandatory timelines, but requires internet intermediaries to ‘act expeditiously’ or risk losing its legal immunity). It remains to be seen whether an additional layer of Irish regulation on tech and Internet companies would have any impact on Ireland’s international reputation as an attractive place to do business.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had previously indicated that Government plans to appoint a DSC were ‘on hold’, however, he has since clarified that he may have ‘mis-spoken’.

The Department of Communications has organised an open digital safety forum on March 8 at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham involving Gardaí, Interpol, NGOs, state bodies and parents groups. We await further detail on this proposal.

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The conference on Modernising Copyright, jointly organised by the Irish Centre for European Law and the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, brought together a number of interesting academics, practitioners and commentators, for a lively discussion concerning various aspects of the future of copyright law in Europe. Among the issues addressed were the development of a Digital Single Market (DSM) in Europe, the nature of copyright exceptions and limitations, and the position of online service providers and intermediaries vís-a-vís copyright infringement.

Continue Reading Modernising Copyright – ICEL/TCD Conference

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A Private Members Bill – the Public Electronic Communications Networks (Improper Use) Bill 2015

The law has consistently prohibited the improper use of the postal and telephone systems, however a legal loophole exists in respect of electronic communications or social media. The new legislation proposes amending section 13 of the Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951, as substituted by section 4 of, and Schedule 1 to, the Communications regulation (Amendment) Act 2007.

Continue Reading New legal powers proposed to outlaw sinister social media content

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The Law Reform Commission (LRC) has launched a consultation process reviewing Irish law on cyber-crime affecting personal safety, privacy and reputation, including cyber-bullying. It addresses harassment conducted through cyber-technology, and other harmful communications through the use of internet enable devices such as smartphones, tablets and PCs.

The Issues Paper, published by the LRC today, reviews the legal safeguards currently in place and considers where they might be strengthened. The LRC seeks the views of interested parties on five issues, including:-

"(1) Whether the harassment offence in section 10 of the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997 should be amended to incorporate a specific reference to cyber-harassment, including indirect cyber-harassment.

(2) Whether there should be an offence that involves a single interference, through cyber technology, with another person’s privacy.

(3) Whether current law on hate crime adequately addresses activity that uses cyber technology and social media.

(4) Whether current penalties for offences which can apply to cyber-harassment and related behaviour are adequate.

(5) The adequacy of civil law remedies to protect against cyber-harassment and to safeguard the right to privacy".

Contributors are requested to make their submissions/comments before close of business on Monday 19 January 2015.

The full text of the Issues Paper can be found here.

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As the world still tries to come to grasps with the Ebola crisis in Africa, it is thought that the greatest risk of contracting the deadly virus in Europe is for healthcare workers. An Irish tech start-up company called Medical eGuides has launched an app which will provide medical staff with critical information on how to effectively and competently treat Ebola-infected patients in accordance with the World Health Organisation’s guidelines.

Continue Reading An Irish Tech Company’s Role in Combatting Ebola