Saturday, February 27, 2010

European Commission - Education & Training - External Programmes and Policies - Study In Europe

European Commission - Education & Training - External Programmes and Policies - Study In Europe

ePractice.eu : eGovernment and eInclusion in Europe

Here is a useful site for government facts and doings in Europe: ePractice.eu.
"ePractice.eu is a portal created by the European Commission which offers a new service for the professional community of eGovernment, eInclusion and eHealth practitioners. It is an interactive initiative that empowers its users to discuss and influence open government, policy-making and the way in which public administrations operate and deliver services.

ePractice.eu involves practitioners from all 27 Member States, EU-member candidate states and EFTA countries. Practitioners from other countries outside the EU are also welcome to join."
They have a very useful set of factsheets at "An overview of the eGovernment and eInclusion situation in Europe":
"The ePractice eGovernment and eInclusion factsheets aim to provide an overall picture of the situation and progress of eGovernment and eInclusion in 34 European countries: EU Member States, EU Candidate countries and EFTA countries. Local editions of the ePractice eGovernment factsheets are being produced in cooperation with local organizations. Print copies of the ePractice eGovernment factsheets are available upon request and stock availability. For more information about print copies please contact idabc@ec.europa.eu"

Friday, February 26, 2010

Progress on Patent Reform in the European Union (EU)

James DeGiulio writes at Patent Docs in Europe Takes Step Closer to Single EU Patent and Patent Court that:
"On December 4, 2009, the European Competitiveness Council unanimously adopted a legislative package designed to create a single EU patent and EU patent court....

The reform proposal still needs to undergo an official review by the European Council and the European Parliament ... [and] the European Court of Justice has yet to deliver an opinion on the compatibility of the patent court and draft agreement with EU treaties. This opinion is expected at the earliest by summer 2010."
Also in the EU, the wheels of patent legislation turn slowly.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Court in Italy Convicts 3 Google Execs in Absentia for Privacy Violation Due to Delay in Takedown of Previously Flagged Objectionable Online Video

Italian Court Convicts 3 Google Executies in Absentia for Privacy Violation Due to Delay in Takedown of Flagged Online Video

Via Sylvia Poggioli at npr.org, the Associated Press informs us that:
"An Italian court convicted three Google executives of privacy violations Wednesday because they did not act quickly enough to remove [an objectionable] online video....

In the first such criminal trial of its kind, Judge Oscar Magi sentenced the three in absentia to a six-month suspended sentence and absolved them of defamation charges....

Google Italy, which is based in Milan, said it took down the video two hours after being notified by police, as is required by law. Prosecutors argued that viewers had flagged it well before police contacted Google, and the fact that it shot to the top of a 'most entertaining videos' list on the Italian site, had 5,500 views and 800 comments during the two months it was online meant it should have been noticed sooner. [emphasis added]

Thanks to the footage and Google's cooperation, [the young criminals responsible were] identified and sentenced by a juvenile court to community service. The events shortly preceded Google's 2006 acquisition of YouTube."
Read the full story here.

There is a saying in jurisprudence that hard cases often make bad law and this is such a case. No normal person wants to condone the online publication of the type of objectionable material in question, but there are no laws on the books - also not in Italy - that Internet providers have to pre-screen material posted to the Internet, nor are they required by law to screen such material within a given time period if such material is "flagged" by users as objectionable, nor are there standards in place for what kinds of "flagged" material must be taken down - or not. Who is to play the role of the "judicial God" in such cases?

Indeed, as noted in the posting cited above:
"In the United States, the Communications Decency Act of 1996 generally gives Internet service providers immunity in cases like this, but no such protections exist in Europe."
One reason for that of course is that the European Commission and its EU lawmakers are still asleep on many critical issues of Internet governance and competent leadership should be found in Brussels to move things forward.

The Italian judge in this case of course rightly wants to put an end to the uploading of this kind of material, but imposing criminal sanctions on executives of Internet providers is most certainly not the right legal path to do this, as it inflicts punishments upon those who are totally unaware - given the state of the laws - that they are committing a crime (within the definition of the law). That of course is an absurd result, legally seen.

Using the criminal law against Internet providers in court is also a flagrant violation of the basic rules that apply to the imposition of criminal sanctions. See Herbert Packer and The Limits of the Criminal Sanction. The criminal law is not a cure-all for all social ills.

It is up to the legislatures - and NOT the courts - to remedy the Internet situation by legislating appropriate - reasonable - standards. It is simply not the job of any judge to MAKE "his" law in a case such as the one at issue here, even if that judge might wish that the law on the books supported his well-meant intentions in this particular case.

This appears to be an instance which must soon be corrected by the legal system in Italy because it erodes the basic foundations upon which the entire Internet is built. One can not make Internet builders or their lawful representatives criminals in the courts just because of the many criminals out there in society who criminally use the new technologies that they have devised. That - my dear judge in Italy - can NEVER be the law.

Otherwise, we might as well shut down the entire mobile communications of the world because it is known by everyone that mobile (cell) phones are used for criminal purposes, also in the political sphere. Making executives of mobile communications companies criminally liable for such use would be as equally absurd as the Italian decision in this case.

The fault is not with Google. The fault is with Italy. Get your laws straightened out folks. Present the companies of the world with clear legislative standards in your jurisdiction and those companies will abide by them, simply as a matter of good business practice.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Where is the Money and Who Has That Money? Greek Financial Crisis Provokes Protests in Athens

Via the Houston Chronicle the AP reports that Clashes break out at Greek crisis protests.
"ATHENS, Greece — Police fired tear gas and clashed with demonstrators in Athens after some 50,000 people finished a peaceful march against cutbacks intended to fix the country's debt crisis....

The European Union has issued a vague promise to support Greece, which has some euro 53 billion in debt coming due this year, but the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou has pressed for more specific guarantees to shore up market confidence.

The government says it won't need a bailout and will stick to its plans to make sharp cutbacks."
What is lacking in all of these news reports is an accounting of "WHERE IS THE MONEY?" and "WHO HAS THAT MONEY?" i.e. how could so much indebtedness be built up and what was the money spent for.

Outsourcing and Data Protection in the European Union: EU Standard Contract Clauses Must Be Changed Regarding Overseas Transfers of Personal Data

Out-law.com alerts us to the fact that a recent formal Decision of the European Commission requires that Model clauses for overseas transfers of personal data be updated, writing
"Outsourcing companies outside the EU will now have to get written permission to subcontract the processing of personal data after the European Commission changed arrangements permitting the export of such information.

The EU's data protection regime limits the export of personal data outside the European Economic Area (EEA) which comprises the EU, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

A small handful of countries have proved their data protection regimes the equivalent of the EU's and so are permitted to receive personal data without further steps (Switzerland, Canada, Argentina, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey), while the US has a special arrangement, the Safe Harbour scheme, under which participating US companies can receive data if they promise to abide by rules over and above US law.

For transfers to all other countries there must be specific data protection contractual arrangements in place before the personal data of EU residents can be sent to companies based there for processing. The European Commission produces standard clauses that are used in such contracts.

The Commission has changed the terms of those clauses to allow companies in non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries to sub-contract work, but only with the explicit permission of client companies." [emphasis added]
Read the full article here for more details and a link to an Out-law.com guide to overseas transfer of personal data.

Baltic States Reconsider Plans to Adopt the Euro

Baltic States Reconsider Plans to Adopt the Euro
"The tiny Baltic states have pursued closer integration with Europe with enormous zeal. But the price of monetary union may be giving them pause....

“Countries like Estonia and Latvia were once desperate to get in,” said Alf Vanags, director of the Baltic International Center for Economic Policy Studies in Riga. “The euro is not looking so attractive now.”"

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

EU Commission outlines plans to strengthen privacy law | Pinsent Masons LLP

EU Commission outlines plans to strengthen privacy law | Pinsent Masons LLP
"The European Commission is planning to beef up the Data Protection Directive, strengthening the enforcement of the EU law and including introducing new demands that technologies and processes include 'privacy by design'.
advert: Pinsent Masons Data Protection and Freedom of Information Advice Lines

The Directive is implemented in the UK by the Data Protection Act and governs the use that can be made of people's personal data."

Changes to EUR-Lex, Official Journal of the European Union (EU), Legislative Acts, New Numbering in Treaties : EUR-Lex Newsletter 8/1/2010

The EUR-Lex Newsletter 8/1/2010 : Access to European Union Law contains important information about changes to EUR-Lex, to the Official Journal of the European Union, to a distinction introduced between legislative and non-legislative acts, and reference to the new numbering of the 'Treaty on European Union' and the 'Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union' as per the Lisbon Treaty. EUR-Lex writes:
"The EUR-Lex website has been harmonized with the other websites of the Publications Office....

From first January 2010 the structure of the Official Journal is adapted in order to take account of the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon....

In particular a distinction between 'Legislative acts' (L I) and 'Non-legislative acts' (L II) has been introduced in conformity with the Treaty of Lisbon....

Articles, sections, chapters, titles and parts of the 'Treaty on European Union' and of the 'Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union' are renumbered (Treaty of Lisbon article 5 and Annex)."
For more details, see the Newsletter.

EUR-Lex : Free Access to European Union EU Law : Official Journal, Treaties, Legislation, Case Law, Legislative Proposals

EUR-Lex
"EUR-Lex provides direct free access to European Union law. Here you can consult the Official Journal of the European Union as well as the treaties, legislation, case-law and legislative proposals. You can also use the extensive search facilities available on EUR-Lex."
Read more here.

Objectives of the fiveIPoffices : EPO, JPO, KIPO, SIPO, USPTO

For the Objectives of the "five IP offices" - EPO, JPO, KIPO, SIPO, USPTO - see here.

European Patent Office (EPO) Official Journal January 2010 is Now Online

The Official Journal of January 2010 of the European Patent Office (EPO) is now online here.

Doing Business in Europe – the legal pitfalls | Enterprise Europe

Doing Business in Europe – the legal pitfalls | Enterprise Europe

"Considering doing business with Europe? Come along to this new seminar to find out how to avoid some of the legal pitfalls when you sell your goods....

Thursday 4th February 2010, Holiday Inn Rochester [UK]

8.30am - 10.30am

Light breakfast included
To book for this event, click here...."

European Commission Report on Social Trends in Europe

Social climate in Europe – European Commission survey delivers mixed results
"Europeans quite happy with their personal situation, but less satisfied with economic and social climate in their country.

Despite hard economic times, Europeans are generally satisfied with their lives and optimistic about their short-term prospects, an EU survey published today suggests.

Nearly 27 000 people were polled across 30 countries – the 27 EU countries and Croatia, Turkey and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.

The survey was conducted over three weeks in May and June, when Europe was struggling to pull itself out of the deepest recession in decades. The results form part of the commission’s 2009 report on social trends in Europe."

Europe Direct Leeds - Bringing Europe To You!

Europe Direct Leeds - Bringing Europe To You!
"Europe Direct Leeds is part of a network of 16 centres in the UK, 500 across Europe which aim to act as an interface between the EU and its citizens at local level. We can help with general questions on every aspect of Europe and can put you in touch with relevant specialist services if required. We have leaflets, brochures and materials [...]"

Monday, February 01, 2010

EU Commission Economic Review of Deadlines for Malta, Lithuania, Hungary and Latvia to Bring Public Debt to 3% of GDP Results in 2 Extensions

Four EU states given economic reviews - UPI.com

The UPI via EUObserver reported that the European Commission considered the economic status of Malta, Lithuania, Hungary and Latvia in their EU obligation "to bring public debt to under 3 percent of their gross domestic products."

Hungary and Latvia were seen as being on track to meet their current deadlines of 2011 and 2012 respectively, and were given no extensions of those deadlines.

Malta and Lithuania, on the other hand, due to economic difficulties, were extended to 2011 and 2012 respectively.

EU Personal Data Protection and Privacy Laws to Target Social Media : Facebook, Twitter, Myspace et al.

Leigh Phillips at the EUobserver in New EU laws to target Facebook writes that:
"[T]he European Commission ... announced plans for comprehensive new laws that have in their sights the massively popular website [Facebook]....

Underscoring its new powers under the Lisbon Treaty and the legal basis given to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the commission said it wants to create "a clear, modern set of rules" guaranteeing a high level of personal data protection and privacy....

Mentioning Facebook, Myspace and Twitter by name, [EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media] Ms Reding said she will start this year with a revision of the 1995 Data Protection Directive...." [link added by LawPundit]
Read the whole article here.

To fix the Greek crisis, deal with the eurozone’s imbalances | Brussels Blog | FT.com

To fix the Greek crisis, deal with the eurozone’s imbalances | Brussels Blog | FT.com
"[T]he Greek turmoil reflects a wider crisis of imbalances in the 16-nation eurozone, and everyone will have to make a contribution to bring this wider crisis under control. Specifically, Greece and a few other countries - notably, Portugal and Spain - have very big current account deficits, while Germany, Europe’s champion exporter and the the eurozone’s largest economy, tends to run big current account surpluses. The Greek deficit was a remarkable 12 per cent of gross domestic product in the third quarter of 2009, and Portugal’s stood at 10 per cent."

Eurostat to audit the national governments of EU Member States?

AFP: Europe acts to police data as debt levels spiral

Roddy Thomson (AFP) observes:
"The EU's executive arm will propose next month that the bloc's data office, Eurostat, be allowed to 'carry out audits' on information provided by national governments...."
Whether that will work?

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