Posts Tagged Internet
Gtflix Tv. The French Supreme Court queries the CJEU on further specification of Bolagsupplysningen and jurisdiction for libel over the internet.
Thank you Helene Peroz for flagging the French Supreme Court on 13 May last referring to the CJEU for clarification of the Bolagsupplysningen case-law. The case concerns Gtflix Tv which I understand is a Czech adult entertainment corporation, who is suing Mr X, himself a producer of porn and domiciled at Hungary, arguing Mr X has defamed them in public comments.
Gtflix claim both retraction and correction of the comments, and symbolic damages. X argues the French courts do not have jurisdiction and the Court of Appeal at Lyons agreed. It held that Gtflix cannot suffice with a simple show of accessibility of the comments in France: for it to establish jurisdiction, Gtflix was required to show real damage to its reputation in France.
The Supreme Court first of all held that Bolagsupplysningen is good authority for acts of unfair competition between competitors – a finding which was not as such made in Manitou v JCB and on which the court does not refer to the CJEU. The applicable law issues which I discussed earlier in the week, were not subject of the Cour de Cassation’s assessment.
The court then does refer to the CJEU to ask whether Bolagsupplysningen means that a claimant who requests both rectification /retraction and damages, has to necessarily turn to courts with full jurisdiction or whether they can continue to turn for the damages part, to all courts with locus damni jurisdiction.
The specific question referred, is
“Les dispositions de l’article 7, point 2, du règlement (UE) n° 1215/2012 doivent-elles être interprétées en ce sens que la personne qui, estimant qu’une atteinte a été portée à ses droits par la diffusion de propos dénigrants sur internet, agit tout à la fois aux fins de rectification des données et de suppression des contenus, ainsi qu’en réparation des préjudices moral et économique en résultant, peut réclamer, devant les juridictions de chaque État membre sur le territoire duquel un contenu mis en ligne est ou a été accessible, l’indemnisation du dommage causé sur le territoire de cet État membre, conformément à l’arrêt eDate Advertising (points 51 et 52) ou si, en application de l’arrêt Svensk Handel (point 48), elle doit porter cette demande indemnitaire devant la juridiction compétente pour ordonner la rectification des données et la suppression des commentaires dénigrants ?” ;
(Handbook of) European private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 18.104.22.168
Yelp and Facebook. The German and Dutch courts on reputational damage, jurisdiction and applicable law.
Thank you Matthias Lehmann for flagging X v Yelp , held 14 January 2020 at the Bundesgerichthof (German federal court) and to Jef Ausloos for drawing our attention to X and Avrotros v Facebook BV and Facebook Ireland ltd held 15 May 2020. An English summary of that case is here. Note that the Dutch case is one in interlocutory proceedings. Both concern the application of Article 7(2) Brussels IA at the jurisdictional level, and Rome II at the applicable law level, with respect to reputational damage.
In the German Yelp case, a German gym had complained that Yelp’s review algorithm had created a distorted picture of its business. Jurisdiction was established under Article 7(2) Brussels Ia per CJEU Bolagsupplysningen: centre of interests in Germany. As to applicable law, the pickle is A1(2)(g) Rome II which excludes from its scope of application, “non-contractual obligations arising out of violations of privacy and rights relating to personality, including defamation”.
Under residual German PIL, claimant has a choice between lex locus damni or lex locus delicti commissi. Matthias points to the difficulty: if companies have ‘personality rights’ within the meaning of Rome II (Bolagsupplysningen clearly suggests they do; but that is a jurisdictional case) then the issue ought to be held exempt from Rome II. Except, a big chunk of unfair trading practices consists of thrashing a competitor’s reputation – and A6 Rome II has a specific lex causae for unfair trading practices.
The German court does not address the issue directly for it held that claimant had made an implicit choice for lex locus damni – German law: the same result as Rome II would have had.
In the Dutch case, the Court likewise holds jurisdiction on the basis of centre of interests, and then squarely applies A4 Rome II’s general lex locus damni rule (the action was based against Facebook, arguing that FB was not taking enough measures to block fake/fraudulent bitcoin ads on its platform).
On the choice of court suggestion of Facebook, the court holds that current dispute is not of a contractual nature and that FB’s contractual choice of court and law does not extend to same; it leaves undecided whether the celebrity at issue can be considered a ‘consumer’ for jurisdictional purposes (their FB use I imagine potentially having developed into, or even started as professional use: see the dynamic nature per CJEU C-498/16 Schrems). There must be more argument in there.
Interesting cases, with both courts cutting corners.
A reminder: Austrian courts apply CJEU Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook ruling. Limits removal to national territory only but does not rule out worldwide removal on principle.
I had already reported in March on the first application of the CJEU C-18/18 Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook ruling in an update to my post on the latter. I thought I’ld add a separate post on the ruling for it, well, deserves it: the court held that orders based on Austrian copyright are limited to Austria (given copyright’s territorial limitations), but if they are based on personal rights, the claimant has to specify the requested territorial reach (so potentially global).
IPKat have further analysis here. As one or two of us discussed at the time of the CJEU ruling: the infringement of personality rights angle is an important one.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 22.214.171.124, Heading 126.96.36.199.5.
On Wednesday not only did the European Commission release its proposal for green deal, the Court of Appeal also held in Euroeco Fuels (Poland) Limited and others v Sczezin and Swinoujscie Seaports and others  EWCA Civ 1932. As the Green Deal is not short of commentators, I shall focus on Euroeco. It is an important follow-up to some of the issues in Privatbank, particularly in the Court of Appeal’s treatment of ‘expediency’ under Brussels Ia’s lis alibi pendens rules.
Claimants appeal from a decision of Nicol J declining jurisdiction to hear and determine their claims for libel and malicious falsehood. The origins of the claims are words spoken by the Second Defendant in March 2017 at a press conference in Poland and a press release said to have been issued by the Defendants, also in Poland, to the press and other media. The reach of some of those Polish media included England and Wales. The Claimants rely on what are said to be republications of the words and the press release which took place in England and Wales by means of internet articles being read there and Polish broadcasts available there, again on the internet.
Jurisdiction in England can be established on the basis of Article 7(2) BIa. CJEU C-68/93 Shevill is discussed of course, as are Joined Cases C-509/09 and C-161/10 e-Date and Martinez.
First Claimant (“EEF”) is a Polish company. It is the leaseholder of a site in the Baltic port of Szczecin in Poland. It operates an industrial scale alternative petrochemical production plant (“the EEF Plant”) which recycles used tyres into carbon and oil products. Before the English action began, the First Defendant had taken proceedings in Poland against EEF alleging that the EEF Plant was causing a nuisance because of the odours it emitted: those, I understand (the judgment is not entirely clear on this issue) are the concurrent ‘Polish proceedings’. The other claimants are the English holding company and various executives.
First Defendant company is the landlord of the EEF Plant site and the administrator of the ports of Szczecin and Swinoujscie. The other defendants are employees and executives of the first defendant.
At 22-23 are the defendants’ arguments pro a stay or even declination of jurisdiction on Article 30 BIa grounds. Nicol J held that the English and Polish proceedings are “related” for the purposes of Article 30 and decided to decline. His discussion of the various arguments is included at 35 ff of the Court of Appeal judgment.
On Article 30(3)’s condition of ‘expediency’, at 45 the Court of Appeal merely refers to the earlier decision in Privatbank, that “expedient” is more akin to “desirable” than to “practicable” or “possible”. However at 52 Bean LJ holds that ‘If the judge’s decision to decline jurisdiction is upheld or even if the English claim for libel and malicious falsehood is stayed the Claimants could, of course, start similar proceedings in Poland. But on the material before us there appears to be no real possibility of such a claim and the existing claim for nuisance brought by the Defendants being “heard and determined together”.’
This seems at most a lukewarm application of Privatbank, one that is much more practical than abstract and in my view must take some gloss off the authority of Privatbank.
Obiter the risk or irreconcilability is discussed at 53 ff, holding at 61 (with fellow Lord Justices further reserving their view on the issue) ‘the central issue in both actions will be whether the Claimants are causing or permitting harmful pollution to the atmosphere around the EEF Plant; and that to allow the libel claim to proceed to trial in England would create a risk of “irreconcilable judgments”. However, my views on that issue cannot prevail against my conclusion that there is effectively no prospect of the two actions being “heard and determined together”.’
This is an interesting case, I believe it puts one or two Privatbank considerations into perspective.
(Handbook of EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.14.
Swamdi Ramdev v Facebook, Google, Youtube et al at the Delhi High Court: Worldwide removal ordered without much hesitation.
Update 14 November 2019 the judgment is, unsurprisingly, being appealed.
‘The race between technology and the law could be termed as a hare and tortoise race – As technology gallops, the law tries to keep pace.’ (see further below).
Thank you Daphne Keller for flagging CS (OS) 27/2019 Swami Ramdev et al v Facebook et al at the Delhi High Court on 23 October. Defendants are Facebook Inc, Google Inc, YouTube LLC, Twitter etc. The allegation of Plaintiffs is that various defamatory remarks and information including videos, found earlier to have been defamatory (a judgment currently before the Supreme Court without having been stayed), are being disseminated over the Defendants’ platforms.
At 6 Prathiba M Singh J summarises the parties’ position: None of the Defendants have any objection to blocking the URLs and disabling the same, insofar as access in India is concerned. However, all the Defendant platforms have raised objections to removal/blocking/disabling the impugned content on a global basis. On the other hand, the Plaintiffs argued that blocking merely for the Indian territory alone is not sufficient as the content would be accessible through international websites, which can be accessed in India. Thus, according to the Plaintiffs, for the remedy to be effective, a global blocking order ought to be passed.
Particularly in the review of plaintiff’s submission at 8 ff, the parallel is clear with the discussions on the role of intermediaries in Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook. Reference of course is also made to Equustek and, at 64, to the CJEU in Google v CNIL. Facebook refers to the material difference between defamation laws across the globe: at 10: ‘Defamation laws differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and therefore, passing of a global disabling order would be contrary to the principle of comity of Courts and would result in conflict of laws.’
At 44 ff Prathiba M Singh J extensively reviews global precedent, and, at 69, to Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook. At 88 ff this leads justice Singh
Firstly, to uphold fairly straightforwardly the court’s power to order global delisting given the origin in India of the original act of uploading: ‘The act of uploading vests jurisdiction in the Courts where the uploading takes place. If any information or data has been uploaded from India on to a computer resource which has resulted in residing of the data on the network and global dissemination of the said information or data, then the platforms are liable to remove or disable access to the said information and data from that very computer resource. The removal or disabling cannot be restricted to a part of that resource, serving a geographical location.’
>>>Clearly the authority of the finding (likely to be appealed) may therefore be limited to situations of content uploading from inside the jurisdiction.
Further, at 99, to make an effectiveness argument: ‘it is clear that any order passed by the Court has to be effective. The parties before this Court i.e. the platforms are sufficiently capable to enforce an order of global blocking. Further, it is not disputed that the platforms are subject to in personam jurisdiction of this Court.’
>>>The latter element, again, may limit the authority of the judgment. I am not au fait with the ground for jurisdiction in the case at issue.
Finally, at 91: ‘The race between technology and the law could be termed as a hare and tortoise race – As technology gallops, the law tries to keep pace’. This does not imply the law simply laying down to have its belly rubbed. Exactly my sentiment in my post on the UK AI case.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 188.8.131.52, Heading 184.108.40.206.5
Steady now. Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook. The CJEU on jurisdiction and removal of hate speech.
Update 5 May 2020 see the report of the first application of the criteria by the Austrian courts on 30 March 2020 here: the court held that orders based on Austrian copyright are limited to Austria, but if they are based on personal rights, the claimant has to specify the requested territorial reach (so potentially global).
My interest in C-18/18 Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook as I noted in my short first review of the case, concerns mostly the territorial reach of any measures taken by data protection authorities against hosting providers. The Court held last week and o boy did it provoke a lot of comment.
The case to a large degree illustrates the relationship between secondary and primary law, and the art of reading EU secondary law. Here: Article 15 of the e-commerce Directive 2001/31 which limits what can be imposed upon a provider; and the recitals of the Directive which seem to leave more leeway to the Member States. Scant harmonisation of tort law in the EU does not assist the Institutions in their attempts to impose a co-ordinated approach.
The crucial issue in the case was whether Article 15 prohibits the imposition on a hosting provider (Facebook, in this case) of an obligation to remove not only notified illegal content, but also identical and similar content, at a national or worldwide level? The Court held the Directive does not as such preclude such order, and that as to the worldwide injunctive issue, EU law has not harmonised and that it is up to the Member States to direct in any such orders in compliance with public international law.
The judgment to a large degree concerns statutory interpretation on filtering content, which Daphne Keller has already reviewed pre the judgment succinctly here, Dan Svantesson post the judgment here, as did Lorna Woods, and a frenzied Twitter on the day of the judgment e.g. in this thread. A most balanced analysis is provided by Andrej Savin here. e-Commerce law is not the focus of this blog, neither my professed area of expertise (choices, choices). I do want to emphasise though
- that as always it pays to bear in mind the CJEU’s judicial economy. Here: the need to interpret its judgment in line with the circumstances of the case. As Steve Peers noted, the Austrian court had ruled that the post was defamatory, which is a recognised basis for limiting freedom of expression; see also at 40: ‘In that regard, it should be made clear that the illegality of the content of information does not in itself stem from the use of certain terms combined in a certain way, but from the fact that the message conveyed by that content is held to be illegal, when, as in the present case, it concerns defamatory statements made against a specific person.‘ Nota bene, the same need to read the judgment in context goes for the earlier Google v CNIL case, applying Directive 95/46 and the GDPR, which I review here.
- that speaking strictly as a member of the public who has seen the devastating effect of ‘social’ media on people close to me, the technical discussions on filtering (‘what filter does the CJEU think might possibly ever be available to FB to remove content in the way the Court wishes’) are emphatically beside the point. The public justifiably are not interested in the how. A service is offered which clearly has negative effects on EU citisens. Remedy those effects, or remove the service from those citisens. That is true for the negative impacts of goods (in 25 years of regulatory Bar practice I have seen plenty of that). There is no reason it should be any less true for services.
The jurisdictional issues are what interest me more from the blog’s point of view: the territorial scope of any removal or filtering obligation. In Google viz the GDPR and the data protection Directive, the Court confirmed my reading, against that of most others’, of Szpunar AG’s Opinion. EU law does not harmonise the worldwide removal issue. Reasons of personal indemnification may argue in specific circumstances for universal jurisdiction and ditto reach of injunctive relief on ‘right to be forgotten’ issues. Public international law and EU primary law are the ultimate benchmark (Google V CNIL). It is little surprise the Court held similarly in Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek, even if unlike in Google, it did not flag the arguments that might speak against such order. As I noted in my review of Google, for the GDPR and the data protection Directive, it is not entirely clear whether the Court suggests EU secondary law simply did not address extraterritoriality or decided against it. For the e-commerce Directive in Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek the Court notes at 50-52
Directive 2000/31 does not preclude those injunction measures from producing effects worldwide. However, it is apparent from recitals 58 and 60 of that directive that, in view of the global dimension of electronic commerce, the EU legislature considered it necessary to ensure that EU rules in that area are consistent with the rules applicable at international level. It is up to Member States to ensure that the measures which they adopt and which produce effects worldwide take due account of those rules.
In conclusion, Member States may order a host provider to remove information covered by the injunction or to block access to that information worldwide within the framework of the relevant international law. To my knowledge, the Brussels Court of Appeal is the only national court so far to consider public international law extensively viz the issue of jurisdiction, and decided against it, nota bene in a case against Facebook Inc.
Any suggestion that the floodgates are open underestimates the sophisticated engagement of national courts with public international law.
In general, the CJEU’s approach is very much aligned with the US (SCOTUS in particular) judicial approach in similar extraterritoriality issues (sanctions law; export controls; ATS;…). There is no madness to the CJEU’s approach. Incomplete: sure (see deference to national courts and the clear lack of EU law-making up its legislative mind on the issues). Challenging and work in progress: undoubtedly. But far from mad.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 220.127.116.11, Heading 18.104.22.168.5.
BVC v EWF. The High Court on personality rights, internet and centre of interests in echoes of Bolagsupplysningen and e-Date. Suggests court with full jurisdiction is required for orders restraining further publication.
In BVC v EWF  EWHC 2506 (QB) claimant applied for summary judgment in a claim for misuse of private information and harassment. The privacy claim arises from internet publication, on a website created by the defendant, of his account of his relationship with claimant. The harassment claim arises from a series of email communications from the defendant to claimant over a period of some two years, and from publication of the website itself.
An ex parte injunction had been granted earlier. The Defendant was restrained from contacting or harassing claimant, from publishing the website or any of its contents to the world at large, and from publishing any of the information set out in a confidential schedule, or any information which was liable to or might identify the claimant as a party to the proceedings or as the subject of the confidential information
In current proceedings defendant (a UK national) submits he is domiciled in Switserland. This triggers the Lugano Convention.
Parkes J clearly had to consider Article 5(3) Lugano’s special jurisdictional rule for tort (the BIa equivalent of course is now Article 7(2), hence also applying e-Date and Bolagsupplysningen. Steyn DJ had earlier rejected defendant’s arguments. At 33: ‘She held, in short, that the Claimant had a good arguable case that this jurisdiction was the state in which he had the centre of his interests, and that in any event a real and substantial tort (namely misuse of private information) had been committed within the jurisdiction. She also ordered that the steps already taken to bring the Claim Form and orders of 27 June and 4 July 2018 to the Defendant’s attention (namely, service by email) constituted good service on him, notwithstanding that he claimed he was domiciled in Switzerland at the date of receipt of the documents, not (as had been believed) in this jurisdiction.’
Defendant (praised nb by Parkes J for his ‘brief but enlightening written submissions’) however continues to challenge the jurisdiction, jumping at the chance to bring it up again when claimant referred to his centre of interests in his PoC (Particulars of Claim), and employing the distinction which the CPR makes between challenges to existence and exercise of jurisdiction (notwithstanding authority (see at 39) that despite the distinction claims viz the two need to be brought concurrently).
He essentially (at 43) posits the court reconsider
‘whether Article 7(2) RJR is ‘to be interpreted as meaning that a natural person who alleges that his personality rights have been infringed by the publication of information concerning him on the internet may have his centre of interests in a Member of State where he is not habitually resident, where he has no ongoing professional connections or employment, no home, no income and no immediate family’. In his letter to the court of 18 June 2019, the Defendant puts it this way: ‘… with no permission to appeal the judgment of Karen Steyn QC, if the court continues to accept the Claimant’s centre of interests is in England and Wales despite very clear evidence to the contrary then it is necessary to refer the question of interpretation to the ECJ pursuant to Article 267 of the TFEU’.
At 44 Parkes J dismisses the suggestion of preliminary review to Luxembourg. That route is ‘not designed to provide a route of appeal against judicial evaluation of evidence of fact.’ In conclusion, re-opening of the discussion on jurisdiction is rejected, referring finally to Lord Green in Kaefer:”it would not be right to adjourn the jurisdiction dispute to the full trial on the merits since this would defeat the purpose of jurisdiction being determined early and definitively to create legal certainty and to avoid the risk that the parties devote time and cost to preparing and fighting the merits only to be told that the court lacked jurisdiction“.
Arguments on submission to the jurisdiction where not entertained: whether service of a defence, and the making of an application to strike out qualify as ‘submission’ becomes otiose when that jurisdiction has already been unsuccessfully challenged.
Then follows extensive discussion of the factual substance of the matter, which is less relevant for the purposes of this blog. Hence fast forward to 150 ff where the issue of jurisdiction to issue an injunction prohibiting re-publication of the material is discussed (in case: re-offering of the website on WordPress or elsewhere). At 158 ff this leads to a re-discussion of Bolagsupplysningen where the Court held that where a claimant seeks an injunction to rectify or remove damaging material from the internet, he can only do so only in a State with full jurisdiction. Parkes J at 160 suggests this is only in the state where the defendant is domiciled (the general rule, as stated by Art 2(1) Lugano and Art 4(1) RJR), or (by virtue of the special jurisdiction: Art 5(3) Lugano and Art 7(2) RJR) in the state where he has his centre of interests, and not before the courts of each member state in which the information is accessible.
I believe Parkes J on that point omits locus delicti commissi. At the time of my review of Bolagsupplysningen I suggested the judgment was bound to create a need for further clarification: Shevill and e-Date confirm full jurisdiction for the courts of the domicile of the defendant, and of the locus delicti commissi, and of the centre of interests of the complainant. These evidently do not necessarily coincide. With more than one court having such full jurisdiction positive conflicts might arise.
Of more importance here is that Parkes J (obiter) at 163 suggests that the requirement of full jurisdiction, also applies to orders restraining any further publication and not just as the Grand Chamber held limited by the facts in Bolagsupplysningen, to orders for rectification and removal. In doing so he follows the in my view correct suggestion made by Dr Tobias Lutzi (‘Shevill is dead, long live Shevill!’, L.Q.R. 2018, 134 (Apr), 208-213) viz divisible cq indivisible remedies – update 28 September 2019 although the issue is not free of discussion. Graham Smith for instance suggests the potential for geo-blocking as a valid argument to grant jurisdiction for restraining further publication on an Article 7(2) locus damni basis.
Note also the cross-reference to Saïd v L’Express on the limitation of Bolagsupplysningen to injunctive relief: for damages, the full mosaic implications remain.
Conclusion: Claimant is entitled to summary judgment for a final injunction to restrain further misuse of his private information
(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 22.214.171.124.