Platform Liability Under Art. 17 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, Automated Filtering and Fundamental Rights: An Impossible Match
This article first outlines the relevant fundamental rights as guaranteed under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights that are affected by an obligation to monitor and filter for copyright infringing content. Second, it examines the impact on fundamental rights of the obligations OCSSPs incur under Art. 17, which are analysed and tested also with regard to their compatibility with general principles of EU law such as proportionality and legal certainty. These are, on the one hand, obligations to prevent the upload of works for which they have not obtained authorization and, on the other, an obligation to remove infringing content upon notification and prevent the renewed upload in relation to these works and protected subject matter (so-called ‘stay-down’ obligations). Third, the article assesses the mechanisms to safeguard the right of users of online content-sharing services under Art. 17. The analysis demonstrates that the balance between the different fundamental rights in the normative framework of Art. 17 CDSM Directive is a very difficult one to strike and that overly strict and broad enforcement mechanisms will most likely constitute an unjustified and disproportionate infringement of the fundamental rights of platform operators as well as of users of such platforms. Moreover, Art. 17 is the result of hard-fought compromises during the elaboration of the Directive, which led to the adoption of a long provision with complicated wording and full of internal contradictions. As a consequence, it does not determine with sufficient precision the balance between the multiple fundamental rights affected, nor does it provide for effective harmonization. These conclusions are of crucial importance for the development of the regulatory framework for the liability of platforms in the EU since the CJEU will have to rule on the compatibility of Art. 17 with fundamental rights in the near future, as a result of an action for annulment filed by the Polish government. In fact, if certain features of the article are considered incompatible with the constitutional framework of the EU, this should lead to the erasing of certain paragraphs and, possibly, even of the entire provision from the text of the CDSM directive.