Mason Hayes & Curran explores the implications of the European Commission’s proposed regulation for online video-sharing.
As part of a planned revision of the Audio Visual Media Services (AVMS) Directive (2010/13/EU), the European Commission has proposed to regulate video-sharing platforms for the first time.
If ultimately passed by the European Parliament, this will have various implications for video-sharing platform providers and Ireland may very well have a central role to play in regulating it.
European law is always seeking to strike the right balance between protecting internet users and those providing services or content on the internet. For some time now, those providing content on the internet have had the benefit of certain immunities from legal liability where they are only caching or hosting information and there is no requirement to monitor. To a large degree, these immunities have encouraged and continue to encourage the provision of content-sharing platforms on the internet, including for user-generated content (UGC).
With this proposal for revisions to the AVMS Directive, the European Commission is seeking to regulate video-sharing platform services in the interest of the protection of minors generally and the protection of all internet users from certain harmful content.
A video-sharing platform service is a service:
- that involves the storage of a large amount of programmes or UGC for which the service provider does not have editorial control;
- on which the organisation of the stored content is determined by the service provider including by automatic means or algorithms (in particular, hosting, displaying, tagging and sequencing); and
- with its principal purpose or a section of it devoted to providing programmes and user-generated videos to the general public in order to inform, entertain or educate.
This definition will likely catch mainstream video-sharing platforms but also websites, only part of which involves user-generated videos.
‘This is not just relevant to mainstream providers but also other websites that provide this type of service, such as newspaper websites’
Under the proposal, EU member states will have to bring in laws to ensure that video-sharing platform providers take appropriate measures to protect minors from content that may impair their physical, mental or moral development; and protect all citizens from content containing incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such group defined by reference to sex, race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.
The proposal would require the following measures to be taken, as appropriate:
- Defining and applying the above protections in service providers’ relevant terms and conditions
- Establishing and operating mechanisms for users to report or flag videos to the service provider (and what that means) and to rate video content
- Establishing and operating age-verification systems and providing for parental control with respect of content that may impair the physical, mental or moral development of minors
The proposal as implemented in national law must be overseen by an independent regulator and with appropriate complaint and redress mechanisms.
Website-owners take note
Companies that provide video-sharing platforms on the internet should carefully follow the development of the proposal. This is not just relevant to mainstream providers but also other websites that provide this type of service, such as newspaper websites.
From a service provision perspective, it is critical that, although the proposal would involve certain measures to be taken, the relevant immunities mentioned above will continue to apply.
Lastly, due to the territorial application of the proposal, it is possible that for a significant number of video-sharing platform providers in the EU, they will fall under the Irish implanting regulations if they have their head office here.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.
Tech Law is a weekly series brought to you by Irish law firm Mason Hayes & Curran, whose legal tech team advises the world’s top social media organisations and emerging start-ups. For more information, contact a member of MHC’s technology team or check out www.mhc.ie.
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Main image of people watching video online via Shutterstock
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