Modernization of EU Copyright Rules: A Good Idea With Bad Results?

Posted in Copyright, EU, European Union Law

In a period of ongoing modernization of European legislation concerning the European Digital Single Market, the regulation of online copyright is a continuing concern. The proposed new copyright directive (‘the Copyright Directive’) would bring far-reaching changes to European copyright law and has been heavily debated by the member states over the last two years. It has also been intensely criticized in the media.

On Wednesday, 13 February 2019, however, a breakthrough was achieved when the three branches of European government – the European Commission, the Parliament, and the Council of the EU – reached a political agreement on the Copyright Directive. In the coming months, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU will have a final vote on the Copyright Directive.

At the same time, the media publish extensively about the directive. Their most common complaint concerns Article 13 and the duty of ‘online content sharing providers’ to filter content. Household-named tech giants are the online content sharing providers (‘Content Sharing Providers’). Some argue that such filtering could violate people’s freedom of expression, as defined in Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

But where does this fear of ‘filtering of the internet’ come from? Does it really pose a threat to human rights? And are there no countervailing advantages to be provided by the Copyright Directive?

Protection of the Creative Content Sector

To start with the last question: Yes, there are advantages, but only for a limited group of stakeholders. One of the objectives of the Copyright Directive is to create a ‘fairer and sustainable marketplace for authors, performers, the creative industries and the press’.

While these parties are at the heart of content creation and the creative sector, their remunerations are not considered reflective of the extensive online use of their content by Content Sharing Providers. This use is generally not addressed in agreements between creators and such providers.

Consequently, if content published on the Internet infringes a creator’s copyright, the content can only be removed afterwards, and no fixed arrangements on remuneration and/or compensation for damages are in place to make the creators whole. Uncertainty about the specific use of content creators’ material negatively affects their ability to determine appropriate use and remuneration. The European Union therefore finds it important to ‘foster the development of the licensing market between rightholders and the Content Sharing Providers’. These licensing agreements should be ‘fair and keep a reasonable balance for both parties’. (Recital 37 of the last proposal for the Copyright Directive).

Article 13 Copyright Directive – Conclusion of License Agreements

Article 13 of the Copyright Directive says that Content Sharing Providers shall:

‘obtain an authorization from the rightholders […], for instance by concluding a licensing agreement’.

The complete text of the amended (and agreed upon) Article 13 can be found here.

Subparagraph 2 of Article 13 sets out one main element of the license agreement: ‘acts carried out by users of the services’. This means that the license agreement would need to cover the possible acts of the platform’s users. This would impose a great burden on online platforms to control and manage user-generated content, thus   incentivizing the filtering of user-generated content on these online platforms.

Article 13 Copyright Directive –  Liability, unless….

Subparagraph 4 of Article 13 makes the duty to filter content explicitly clear, because if the rightholder does not grant the required authorization, the Content Sharing Provider is liable for the publication of the copyrighted work.

There is an exception to this strict liability, but only if the Content Sharing Provider complies with the following obligations.

The Content Sharing Provider must demonstrate that:

  1. it made best efforts to obtain an authorization; and
  2. it made best efforts to ensure the unavailability of the specific work; and in any event
  3. it acted expeditiously (upon receiving a notice by the rightholders to remove the specific work).

The most efficient way to ensure the “unavailability of the specific work” under (b) would likely be the filtering of all uploaded works on a platform. Using a filter would enable the practical detection of potentially infringing specific works.

Possible Infringements of Human Rights

While Content Sharing Providers are likely to filter user-generated content to protect themselves, automated content filters often fail to recognize the context and actual content of the specific material (link in Dutch). Such failures would contravene other provisions of  the Copyright Directive, which explicitly allow specific forms of expression that may not be recognized by a content filter.

The Copyright Directive even contains an obligation for the member states to ensure that users in the EU have the freedom for expressions such as:

  • quotation, criticism and review; and
  • use for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche

(Article 13 subparagraph 5 Copyright Directive)

This language would seem to require that a filter draw a clear distinction between the content and its specific purpose. This may be an impossible task in practical terms.

A further challenge for adequate filtering is the fact that a copyrighted work, like a video clip, may have multiple authors, each of whom would need to authorize a license to use the work. Consequently, a Content Sharing Provider’s filter system would need to be precise and fully accurate as to attribution, since a mistake regarding a single author’s authorization could lead to a claim.

Lastly, the use of Internet filters poses threats to user privacy. The filtering of content could easily result in the monitoring of users and their personal data. Objective and clear criteria for content filtering is thus required to prevent infringements of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

All the above will likely lead to the implementation of risk averse policies by online platforms, considering the high threat of many large claims. Such policies are likely to result in strict application of filters in order to block all content that poses a potential risk.

Thus, the risk of using strict upload filters is that ‘safe’ content is filtered out, limiting a free flow of information and freedom of expression. The fact that ‘new platforms’ (i.e., platforms on the market for less than three years and with an annual turnover below EUR 10 million) are exempted from the above obligations (b) and (c) may seem positive for start-ups, but it also means that there is really no way out for the large-scale platforms with millions of European users.

To be continued…

The European Parliament and the Council of Europe are expected to take their final vote in March and April 2019. Subsequently, the member states need to implement the Copyright Directive as national legislation. The future of the Copyright Directive and its potential impact are uncertain, and it remains to be seen if the (members of these) institutions are willing to obstruct the current proposal after years of numerous and lengthy negotiations. To be continued.

For more on copyright law, click here.

Greenberg Traurig Amsterdam Office Advised Amundi Real Estate on its Acquisition of INK Hotel Amsterdam, MGallery by Sofitel

Posted in Announcements, real estate

AMSTERDAM – Feb. 19, 2019 – Global law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP advised Amundi Real Estate on the acquisition of INK Hotel Amsterdam, located in the heart of Amsterdam.

INK Hotel Amsterdam, MGallery by Sofitel, which Principal purchased in 2012 in a sale-and-leaseback agreement with Accor Hotel, it was sold to Amundi Real Estate’s OPCI fund (a French real estate investment scheme) in December 2018.

To read the full press release, click here.

Greenberg Traurig Amsterdam and ULI Netherlands host the First Annual Netherlands Real Estate Leaders Roundtable

Posted in Events, real estate

AMSTERDAM – Feb. 11, 2019 – Greenberg Traurig LLP’s Amsterdam office hosted the first annual Netherlands Real Estate Leaders Roundtable, in collaboration with Urban Land Institute (ULI) Netherlands. The event, which was held on 25th January 2019 at De Bazel (home of the Amsterdam City Archives and once the headquarters of the Netherlands Trading Company) has been hailed a great success with key decision-makers attending including a wide range of international and local investors, developers, asset managers, and government officials.

Moderated by Eric Rosedale, Greenberg Traurig’s Head of International Real Estate Development, the roundtable provided a special opportunity to share practical information, trends, and ideas about the Dutch real estate investment market.

To read the full press release, click here.

Brexit Brinkmanship

Posted in Brexit

It is now less than two months until 29 March 2019, the date set for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. At this late stage, the terms of the UK’s withdrawal have still not been settled, and the Brexit issue remains clouded in uncertainty.

As a result of a vote in the UK Parliament 29 January, the UK will now seek to renegotiate one of the terms of the withdrawal agreement agreed in draft with the EU at the end of 2018. This term is the “Irish backstop”, the dual purpose of which is to preserve an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland post-Brexit and to guarantee the integrity of the EU’s post-Brexit borders. The EU’s initial reaction to the vote has been to indicate that it sees no reason to renegotiate. Without amendment to this term, however, the UK’s withdrawal agreement as a whole is very unlikely to receive the parliamentary approval required for it to become binding on the EU and UK.

Key points in light of these developments:

  • A no-deal Brexit on 29 March is still possible.
  • An extension to the 29 March Brexit date is also still possible.
  • Businesses should prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
  • The withdrawal agreement is not the final EU/UK agreement.

To read the full GT Alert, click here.

Thumbs Up for Privacy Shield Implementation, but Ombudsman Must be Appointed by February 28, 2019

Posted in data protection, English Language, EU, European Union Law, GDPR, privacy

The European Commission published its report on the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield on Dec. 19.

The report shows that the United States “continues to ensure an adequate level of protection” for personal data transferred under the Privacy Shield from the EU to participating companies in the U.S., noting that the steps taken by U.S. authorities to implement the recommendations made by the Commission in last year’s report have “improved the functioning of the framework”. In addition, the report states that the Federal Trade Commission has demonstrated a more proactive approach to enforcement by monitoring the principles of the Privacy Shield, including by issuing subpoenas to request information from participating companies.

The European Commission states, however, that it expects the U.S. government to identify a nominee to fill the Ombudsperson position on a permanent basis by 28 February 2019 at the latest. Currently, there is only an acting Ombudsperson. If the position is not filled by that date, the Commission indicates that it “will consider taking appropriate measures, in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation.”

To view the press release and full text of the report, click here.

Netherlands Commercial Court Approved by Dutch Senate

Posted in English Language, EU, international litigation, litigation, Netherlands Commercial Court

On 11 December 2018 the Dutch Senate approved the bill for the establishment of the Netherlands Commercial Court (NCC). The NCC is a separate chamber of the District Court of Amsterdam, specializing in complex international commercial disputes. Proceedings before the NCC will be conducted in English, and judgments will be rendered in English. The NCC offers internationally operating companies the opportunity to conduct proceedings in the Netherlands before a specialized Dutch Court in the English language.

With the NCC, the Dutch Judiciary aims to meet the needs of internationally operating companies with cross-border commercial disputes. A change in legislation was needed to allow a Dutch court to render a decision in English. The approval of the bill by the Dutch Senate is the last step in the legislative process, and paves the way for the NCC to open its doors in 2019. The official open date for the NCC is not yet known.

Continue reading.

CJEU Renders Judgment: Taste is Not Protected by Copyright

Posted in Copyright, English Language, EU, Intellectual Property Litigation

In August 2018 we published a blog about a case before the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) concerning the possibility of copyright on taste of a food product. The special advisor of the CJEU, the Advocate General, advised that taste should not be protected by copyright.

The main reason for this opinion was that taste cannot be objectively identified as a copyright-protected work. To establish whether a work can be protected by copyright, the work should be clear, precise, intelligible, and durable. Taste, according to the Advocate General, does not have such characteristics for the copyright to be established.

The CJEU’s recently rendered final judgment is consistent with the Advocate General’s opinion.

The CJEU first determines whether taste of a food product is eligible for copyright protection under the applicable European copyright directive. The CJEU holds that taste of a food product can be protected by copyright, but only if two cumulative conditions are satisfied.

  1. The subject matter at stake “must be original in the sense that it is the author’s own intellectual creation” (par. 36 of the judgment). This condition aims to exclude subject matter for which protection is requested by one party, but it has been created by another.
  2. “The subject matter protected by copyright must be expressed in a manner which makes it identifiable with sufficient precision and objectivity, even though that expression is not necessarily in permanent form” (par. 40 of the judgment). This condition seeks to provide clarity to all parties involved as to what precisely is protected, and rules out subjective elements in determining the copyright protection of a work.

In light of the second condition, the CJEU rules that taste cannot be sufficiently identified. According to the CJEU, the taste of a food product is identified based on taste sensations and experiences. These sensations and experiences are subjective and variable, as they depend on multiple factors such as age, food preferences, and consumption habits, as well as on the environment or context in which the product is consumed.

On the basis of these findings the CJEU concludes that the taste of a food product cannot be classified as a protectable work under the relevant European copyright directive.

Hoe ver reikt de informatieplicht van de franchisegever in de precontractuele fase?

Posted in Competition Law, contracts, Corporate Law

Een franchiseovereenkomst is een samenwerkingsovereenkomst waarbij de franchisegever en de franchisenemer afspreken dat de franchisenemer tegen vergoeding een licentie verkrijgt om de franchiseformule (naam, stijl, producten en/of diensten) van de franchisegever voor zijn eigen winkel te gebruiken. Het staat de franchisegever en -nemer vrij om de franchiseovereenkomst naar eigen inzicht op te stellen. Alvorens een franchiseovereenkomst aan te gaan, zullen zij daarover natuurlijk onderhandelen. De periode voorafgaand aan het sluiten van de overeenkomst heet de precontractuele fase.

In zijn arrest van 21 september 2018 heeft de Hoge Raad zich uitgelaten over de informatieplicht van de franchisegever in de precontractuele fase. In deze zaak speelt het volgende. Eiseres heeft jarenlang op franchisebasis een C1000 supermarkt geëxploiteerd. In 2011 wordt C1000 overgenomen door Jumbo. De Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit verplicht Jumbo om een aantal vestigingen, waaronder die van eiseres, af te stoten.

Eiseres treedt vervolgens in onderhandeling met Albert Heijn (“AH”). Met het oog op het sluiten van een mogelijke franchiseovereenkomst met eiseres, heeft AH onderzoek gedaan naar het omzetpotentieel van eiseres als AH-supermarkt. In dat kader heeft AH aan eiseres een Lange Termijn Prognose (“LTP”) verstrekt. In de LTP staat onder meer de te verwachten gemiddelde weekomzet voor de komende drie jaar van eiseres als AH-supermarkt. Eiseres sluit vervolgens een franchiseovereenkomst met AH. Na ombouw tot AH-supermarkt wordt de geprognotiseerde weekomzet niet gehaald. De weekomzet van eiseres is zelfs aanzienlijk lager dan onder de C1000 formule.

Eiseres vordert vervolgens een verklaring voor recht bij de rechtbank, dat zij bij het aangaan van de franchiseovereenkomst heeft gedwaald. Eiseres beroept zich voorts op de Europese Erecode inzake Franchising (“Erecode”) en stelt dat de in deze Erecode neergelegde afspraken de franchisegever (AH) verplichten om in de precontractuele fase alle informatie en overige gegevens te verstrekken die de franchisenemer nodig heeft om over het sluiten van de franchiseovereenkomst te kunnen beslissen.

De vorderingen van eiseres worden door de rechtbank toegewezen, maar vervolgens afgewezen door het hof. Eiseres gaat vervolgens in cassatie. De Hoge Raad verwerpt het beroep van eiseres en oordeelt dat het hof voldoende heeft gemotiveerd waarom de LTP van AH deugdelijk was. AH heeft bij het opstellen van de LTP diverse, specifiek voor de locatie van eiseres, relevante omstandigheden in acht genomen. Voorts heeft eiseres volgens de Hoge Raad onvoldoende gemotiveerd waarom de door AH voor de LTP gehanteerde rekenmethodes onjuist, dan wel niet reëel waren.

De Hoge Raad oordeelt voorts dat de in de Erecode neergelegde afspraken niet kwalificeren als in Nederland levende rechtsovertuigingen (artikel 3:12 BW). Dit betekent dat op franchisegevers niet de plicht rust om in de precontractuele fase alle informatie en overige gegevens aan de franchisenemer te verstrekken. Opgemerkt zij dat franchisegevers zich bij de totstandkoming van de Erecode beriepen op het normerend effect van de Erecode. Het arrest van de Hoge Raad verschaft duidelijkheid op dit punt en zet een streep door deze redenering door te oordelen dat in de Erecode neergelegde afspraken niet kwalificeren als in Nederland levende rechtsovertuigingen.

Wetgeving

Er bestaat momenteel geen specifieke wetgeving voor franchiseovereenkomsten. Dit betekent dat een franchiseovereenkomst enkel aan het algemene contractenrecht dient te voldoen. Vanuit de praktijk is er echter vraag naar een wettelijke regeling. In mei 2018 hebben staatssecretaris Keijzer (Economische Zaken en Klimaat) en minister Dekker (Rechtsbescherming) aangekondigd dat een nieuw wetsvoorstel zal worden ingediend om de positie van de franchisenemer te versterken. Het is tot op heden onbekend wanneer het veld over het conceptwetsvoorstel wordt geconsulteerd.

Energy Label C Obligation for All Office Buildings in the Netherlands in 2023 (With Few Exceptions)

Posted in Dutch Property Law, Dutch Real Estate Law, energy label, English Language, governing law, property law, real estate

Introduction

Beginning January 2023, energy labels of the major part of office buildings in the Netherlands will have to be at least in category C, because of an amendment to the Dutch Buildings Decree 2012 (Bouwbesluit 2012), published 2 November 2018. This generally means that owners of office buildings with energy labels from D to G (or without any energy label) should quickly implement energy-saving measures to comply with this obligation.

Background

Since 1 January 2008, energy labels for nonresidential buildings (e.g., office buildings, schools, hospitals) have been mandatory when selling, letting, or transferring such buildings. A similar obligation exists for residential buildings in the Netherlands.

An energy label demonstrates the energy performance of a building. It also includes a standard of which energy-saving measures need to be taken to improve energy performance. The lower the energy label, the more energy-saving measures may be required to obtain a better energy label and to improve the energy performance of a building. The label categories range from A to G, with G being the lowest in terms of energy performance and having the most energy-saving measures needed to obtain a higher energy label.

At present, having an energy label in place is mandatory regardless of the category. Starting in 2023, however, stricter regulations will apply to office buildings concerning energy labels. These stricter regulations will be implemented in the Dutch Buildings Decree 2012.

New Requirements for 2023

Starting 1 January 2023, office buildings must have an energy label in category C or higher. The use of office buildings with an energy label below C will be prohibited as of that date. Exceptions will apply in the following circumstances:

  • the office building is part of a (larger) building and the total usable area for office functions is less than 50 percent of the total usable surface area of that building;
  • the total usable area for office functions and ancillary functions in the office building or the building in which the office building is a part is less than 100 square metres;
  • an office building that is mentioned in Article 2.2 Energy Performance Buildings Decree (Besluit energieprestatie gebouwen). Important exceptions based on this article 2.2 are:
    • an office building that is a national monument;
    • an office building that is only used for a maximum of two years.

Office space owners who can demonstrate that, before 1 January 2023, they have taken all measures needed to realize an energy label in category C with an earn-back-period of up to 10 years, can get by with an energy label lower than category C. The application of this provision and especially the application of the earn-back-period are not clearly explained in the amendment to the Dutch Buildings Decree 2012. It is, moreover, unclear how the effect of this provision will be enforced by the relevant authorities.

Consequences of the Energy Label C Obligation

The abovementioned amendments follow from the Energy Agreement (het Energieakkoord) for sustainable growth of 2013. This Energy Agreement aims to, among other things, limit CO2 emissions and save energy consumption in the Netherlands.

In practice we see that office buildings with energy label D, E, or F could, generally speaking, achieve a label C without major renovations (e.g., by lighting or heating measures). For office buildings with an energy label G, more drastic measures may be necessary.

Tenancy

A tenant is not responsible for compliance with the energy label C obligation with respect to the authorities. However, contractual stipulations in the lease agreement may require the tenant to be responsible for or cooperate with taking energy saving measures (e.g., in the case of a shell lease).

(Office) building tenants should inform or remind their landlords of the energy label obligation in a timely manner, as it will be prohibited to use noncompliant office buildings starting 1 January 2023. Furthermore, the execution of energy-saving measures could temporarily interfere with the use and occupation of an office building. Tenants should plan the execution of any measures with the owner/landlord. In addition, owners should communicate with their tenants about the planned energy-saving measures and how to prevent nuisance for the tenant as much as possible.

Sanctions

Starting 1 January 2023, it will be prohibited to use an office building that does not have an energy label C and is not exempted from this obligation. Violations of the energy label-obligation may result in administrative enforcement actions or criminal enforcement actions. This could lead to the imposition of an order subject to a penalty (last onder dwangsom), an administrative enforcement order (last onder bestuursdwang), or administrative fines (bestuursrechtelijke boete).

For the Future

The Energy Agreement aims for an energy label A requirement for the use of office buildings in 2030. Further legislation will likely follow to achieve this goal. Owners of office buildings should take this into account when investing in measures to upgrade their energy label.

Nederlands rulingbeleid wordt aangepast

Posted in Dutch Tax Law

Eén van de pijlers van het Nederlandse “vestigingsklimaat” is van oudsher ons “rulingbeleid”: belastingbetalers kunnen onder bepaalde omstandigheden zekerheid vooraf verkrijgen over hun Nederlandse fiscale positie. Een rulingproces duurt relatief kort, zeker vergeleken met de ons omringende landen. Een Nederlandse ruling, zoals een Advance Tax Ruling (ATR) of een Advance Pricing Agreement (APA), geeft een helder en betrouwbaar uitgangspunt voor de Nederlandse fiscale positie voor de komende jaren.

Nederland staat al jaren onder (inter-)nationale politieke druk om zijn belastingregime aan te scherpen. Ons rulingbeleid kreeg in 2015 bijzondere aandacht, toen de Europese Commissie kritiek uitte op Nederland naar aanleiding van veronderstelde staatssteun door middel van een zogenaamde “belastingdeal”. Sindsdien is het uitgangspunt gemeengoed geworden dat het Nederlandse belastingregime slechts nog ondernemingen zou moeten faciliteren als deze operationeel actief zijn op Nederlandse bodem.

Afgelopen donderdag, 22 november 2018, heeft dit uitgangspunt ook zijn weerslag gekregen in het Nederlandse rulingbeleid. Voor rulings met een internationaal karakter (“Rulings”) heeft de staatssecretaris van Financiën namelijk (onder meer) de volgende maatregelen aangekondigd:

  1. Alle Rulings zullen in de toekomst worden gepubliceerd in geanonimiseerde en samengevatte vorm.
  2. De Rulings zullen worden afgegeven door een kleine groep specialisten, het College Internationale Fiscale Zekerheid.
  3. Belastingplichtigen die een Ruling vragen dienen al jaren te voldoen aan een lijst met substance-eisen. Eerder dit jaar was sprake van een aanscherping van de bestaande lijst per 1 januari 2019, met een minimum aan loonkosten van EUR 100.000 en de aanwezigheid van een huurovereenkomst voor kantoorruimte van tenminste 24 maanden. Nu wordt afscheid genomen van de bestaande lijst en voorgenomen uitbreiding daarvan, en wordt een nieuw vereiste geïntroduceerd van ‘economische nexus’ met Nederland.
  4. Indien het doorslaggevende motief van de belastingplichtige bestaat uit het besparen van Nederlandse of buitenlandse belasting, zal geen Ruling worden gegeven.

Het nieuwe vereiste van economische nexus wordt door de staatssecretaris uitgelegd als het drijven van bedrijfseconomische operationele activiteiten die daadwerkelijk voor rekening en risico van de Nederlandse vennootschap worden uitgeoefend, waarbij voldoende personeel in Nederland beschikbaar moet zijn om die activiteiten uit te voeren. De aankondiging laat nog veel ruimte over voor interpretatie, en de staatssecretaris kondigt aan dat verdere details bekend zullen worden gemaakt in een nader beleidsbesluit. Uiteindelijk wil de staatssecretaris de wijzigingen in werking laten treden per 1 juli 2019.

Duidelijk is dat het minder gemakkelijk zal worden om een Ruling te krijgen. Het vereiste van voldoende economische nexus zal in theorie strenger uitwerken dan de huidige lijst met substance vereisten, al moeten we afwachten hoe dit nieuwe vereiste in de praktijk zal worden gehanteerd. Met betrekking tot het publiceren van een samenvatting van elke Ruling kan men zich afvragen in hoeverre dit voornemen botst met de geheimhoudingsplicht van de fiscus. In de praktijk zal een en ander afhangen van de mate van anonimisering, waarbij niet alleen namen moeten wegvallen maar ook andere typerende aspecten zouden moeten worden weggelaten.

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