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 The EPC Members' Newsletter

 

Legislative update 78. Month - May 1999

1. ELECTRONIC COMMERCE
1.1 German Presidency will not see adoption of common position
1.2 Federal Trade Commission to look at consumer aspects of e-commerce
1.3 Advisory group on consumer law recommends strengthening Brussels & Rome Conventions
1.4 Commission to study adequacy of consumer protection law
1.5 Internet regulation - Berlin meeting agrees approach to geographic representation and dispute resolution

2. CONVERGENCE
2.1 Culture Council will adopt conclusions in June

3. INTERNET (CONTENT) REGULATION
3.1 New internet rating system launched

4. COPYRIGHT
4.1 Commission publishes revised proposal
4.2 Commission to host conference on standards to support e-commerce and intellectual property

5. ADVERTISING
5.1 Tobacco advertising - Parliament threatens to withdraw support
5.2 Work begins on advertising claims study
5.3 Medical and pharmaceutical professions lobby against relaxing advertising rules
5.4 Marketing in schools - study published on internet

6. AUDIOVISUAL AND GENERAL MEDIA POLICY
6.1 Media ownership - Economic & Social Committee to draft report
6.2 Self-regulation - disagreement in working group over Council conclusions
6.3 Sport - first EU conference calls for restrictions on broadcasting
6.4 Finnish Presidency to host conference on content
6.5 Privacy - Council of Europe conference planned for September
6.6 German public broadcasters ordered to limit on-line activities

7. TAXATION
7.1 Council adopts decision on standard rate VAT
7.2 Finance Ministers approve levying of VAT on telecoms services supplied from third countries

8. GENERAL
8.1 Data protection - Talks continue between EU and US
8.2 Data Protection - Commission launches study to examine adequacy of rules in third countries
8.2 Commission hosts conference on access to public sector information
8.3 Talks continue on proposal agreement on shared responsibility in the paper sector
8.4 Recycled content - Commission expected to launch another study
8.5 Corporate governance - OECD adopts guidelines but European Company Statute fails again

Dates for your diary

June
- EPC MEETING: 7/8 June, 1999 Berlin
- 7th-8th - Imprimatur forum on copyright licensing on networks, London
- 8th-9th - US Federal Trade Commission, workshop on consumer protection and e-commerce, Washington D.C.
- 10th - Press Complaints Commission, meeting of European self-regulatory bodies, London
- 10th-13th - European Parliamentary Elections
- 16th - EAT seminar on country of origin, Brussels

July
- 5th - Forest-based Industries into the 3rd Millennium, Helsinki



1 Electronic commerce

1.1 German Presidency will not see adoption of common position
As expected, the common position on the proposal for a Directive on e-commerce will not be adopted before the end of the German Presidency. The Commission's proposal will feature on the agenda of the Internal Market Council on 21 June but Member States are only expected to take note of progress made to date in the Council working group and to call on the Finnish Presidency to work towards a common position before end-1999. Discussions in working group have reached the draft provisions on liability but still focus on questions of principle rather than details. The amendments adopted by the European Parliament at its first reading have not yet been discussed.

1.2 Federal Trade Commission to look at consumer aspects of e-commerce
The US Federal Trade Commission will host a workshop on consumer protection in e-commerce in Washington DC on 8-9 June as part of a programme of public consultations on key issues relating to the development of global internet trading. The event programme will cover applicable law, systems of consumer redress, potential benefits of international agreements on consumer protection, and the need to modify existing US laws relating to consumer protection. Further details are available at: Error! Bookmark not defined.

1.3 Advisory group on consumer law recommends strengthening Brussels & Rome Conventions
The European Consumer Law Group (ECLG) has been consulted by the European Commission on the latest proposals to amend the Brussels and Rome conventions on the application of international private law. The ECLG recommends that the legal concepts which feature in the two conventions should be harmonised and that all types of consumer contracts be included within their scope. Particular reference is made to contracts relating to consumer credit, time-share and securities. The Group also calls for the country of residence control tobe extended. The report is available on the internet at: Error! Bookmark not defined.

1.4 Commission to study adequacy of consumer protection law
The European Commission (DGXXIV) has published a call for tender to carry out a study on current EU consumer protection law and whether it adequately responds to new protection issues created by the development of the information society. The study also aims to identify gaps in existing provisions and make proposals to rectify them. Work is expected to be completed within 8 months of signature. (Full details available on request).

1.5 Internet regulation - Berlin meeting agrees approach to geographic representation and dispute resolution
Following an open meeting in Berlin on 27 May, the ICANN Board (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) adopted a number of resolutions proposed by stakeholders in the new regulatory system which are designed to address shortcomings of the new framework. The resolutions included a commitment from the ICANN board to consult with stakeholder groups on ways to resolve outstanding issues, to consider a draft dispute resolution system by end-July based on the recommendations of WIPO, and to reassess its membership policy. Full details are available at: Error! Bookmark not defined.


2 Convergence

2.1 Culture Council will adopt conclusions in June
The audiovisual working group has completed its discussions of the draft response of the Culture Council to the Commission Communication on convergence. The draft Conclusions will be discussed at COREPER on 11 June and are expected to be formally endorsed by the Council on 28 June.


3 Internet (content) regulation

3.1 New internet rating system launched
Leading actors in the internet industry have taken the first steps towards creating a new content rating system based on the existing system of the Recreational Software Advisory Council (RASCi). The initiative aims to agree an international, voluntary self-rating system which protects children and respects freedom of speech. Consultations with consumer groups, children's' organisations and other interests around the world will take place over the next 12 months with a view to developing an internationally acceptable rating system. Further details are available at Error! Bookmark not defined. and Error! Bookmark not defined.


4 Copyright

4.1 Commission publishes revised proposal
The European Commission's long-awaited revised proposal was unveiled on 21 May. As expected, the Commission only included part of the Parliaments amendment on temporary copies and leaves out the obligation that such copies must be authorised. However, rightsholders concerns relating to technical measures are accommodated in the revised proposal, together with stronger provisions on sanctions. Full text available on request or on the internet at Error! Bookmark not defined.

4.2 Commission to host conference on standards to support e-commerce and intellectual property
Under the auspices of the INFO 2000 programme, the Commission will support a conference on 8-9 July to examine the development of standards and service requirements to create a framework for the identification of intellectual property and agreements to facilitate trading in IP. For further details see Error! Bookmark not defined.


5 Advertising

5.1 Tobacco advertising - Parliament threatens to withdraw support
The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee has recommended that the Parliament withdraw its support in the legal challenge against the tobacco advertising Directive. Parliament is currently acting as co-defendant with the Council in the case brought by the German government. The President of the Parliament may yet over rule this decision.

5.2 Work begins on advertising claims study
European advertising associations have been invited to contribute to an independent study being carried out for DGXXIV on advertising claims. The study will cover health, nutritional, ethical and social claims and will be used to assess the need to strengthen consumer protection by revising the Directive on misleading advertising. The EPC meeting in Berlin will discuss this at more length.

5.3 Medical and pharmaceutical professions lobby against relaxing advertising rules
Following publication of the Commission's Communication on the EU pharmaceutical market, industry opposition to relaxing the existing ban on advertising of pharmaceutical products on the internet. The Pharmaceuticals Group of the European Union (PGEU) presented a letter to the European Parliament this month asking its support its position on the grounds of consumer protection. See Error! Bookmark not defined. for further details. The Commission is considering relaxing the ban in the light of an independent study on the potential benefits of e-commerce for the sector.

5.4 Marketing in schools - study published on internet
Six months after the completion of an external study on the effects of marketing in schools, the Commission has published the full results on the internet. The study can be found in French at: Error! Bookmark not defined. The text is expected to be available in English and German shortly.


6 Audiovisual and general media policy

6.1 Media ownership - Economic & Social Committee to draft report
The Economic & Social Committee (ECOSOC) has begun work on an own-initiative report on pluralism and concentration in the media. ECOSOC feels that EU action in this field is necessary in the light of developments in new media markets and the convergence of technologies. The EPC will participate in a hearing of interested parties on 18 June. ECOSOC is due to adopt its report in September. (Working document available on request).

6.2 Self-regulation - disagreement in working group over Council conclusions
A disagreement has arisen between Member States over draft Council conclusions on self-regulation and co-regulation which are due to be adopted at the Culture Council on 28 June. The conclusions are intended to represent political support for the Saarbrucken seminar in April which promoted the wider use of self-regulatory codes in audiovisual and new services. An informal working group meeting will try to break the deadlock before the Council meeting. Disagreements relate to the degree of political endorsement and the policy areas it will cover. France, for example, objects to the wider use of self-regulation in audiovisual policy.

6.3 Sport - first EU conference calls for restrictions on broadcasting
The EU's first conference on sport (20-21 May) has called for action to regulate the exclusive broadcasting of sporting events. Delegates favour a case-by-case approach to limiting the duration of exclusive deals for each sport, taking into account the investment required to produce and programme events. There was also support for the restriction of virtual advertising at sports venues and a ban on ownership of sports clubs by broadcasters. (Conclusions available on request).

6.4 Finnish Presidency to host conference on content
As part of its programme for culture and audiovisual policy, the Finnish Presidency is planning to hold a conference on content. This event will take place in Helsinki on 9-10 September. An agenda has yet to be finalised.

6.5 Privacy - Council of Europe conference planned for September
The Human Rights Directorate of the Council of Europe will hold a conference on privacy on 23 September in Strasbourg. The agenda is currently being drafted and is expected in June. The EPC has expressed an interest in participating in this event.

6.6 German public broadcasters ordered to limit on-line activities
Following protects from private publishers and broadcasters, modifications have been made to the legal framework governing the operations of public service broadcasters regarding their on-line activities. ZDF has been ordered to reduce advertising on its website, to stop negotiations with MSNBC on further collaboration and to concentrate its activities on TV programming. ZDF competes directly with RTL's on-line news section and a CNN news site in German which will be launched shortly. For further details see Error! Bookmark not defined. and Error! Bookmark not defined. (in German only).


7 Taxation

7.1 Council adopts decision on standard rate VAT
The Economic and Finance Council has agreed that the current minimum standard rate of VAT of 15% will apply until 31 December 2000. Member States rejected the Commission's proposal to introduce a maximum rate of 25 % and instead agreed to keep the difference between the highest and lowest rates in the EU to 10 percentage points or less.

7.2 Finance Ministers approve levying of VAT on telecoms services supplied from third countries
The ECOFIN Council adopted a Commission proposal to extend the application of VAT to telecoms services supplied from outside the EU. This decision aims to redress the competitive disadvantage which European operators have experienced compared with their non-EU counterparts who export services to EU consumers VAT-free. A last-minute attempt by the UK and France to extend this decision to include TV and radio broadcasting services was dropped. However, the Commission is now expected to table a separate proposal to oblige third country operators selling broadcasting services in the EU to register for VAT.

8 General

8.1 Data Protection - Talks between US and EU on "safe harbours" continue
Substantial progress on arrangements for protection of personal data transferred from the EU to the United States was made at the 28 May meeting in Brussels between John Mogg, European Commission Director General for the Internal Market and Financial Services, and David Aaron, US Under Secretary of Commerce. The objective was to try to resolve outstanding differences in time for the EU/US Summit on 21 June However, important differences remain on various elements of the package under consideration, which will aim to facilitate the flow of data while ensuring it enjoys "adequate" protection in accordance with the requirements of the EU's Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC). At this stage the two sides do not know if it will be possible to conclude their dialogue in time for the Summit. They agreed to remain in close contact over the coming days, however, and will continue to work to meet the target date of 21 June.
The "safe harbor" arrangement which is under discussion will provide a predictable framework for transfers of personal data from the EU to US companies or organisations which adhere to a set of principles to be issued by the Department of Commerce. On the EU side, the principles would be met by a decision recognising that they represented an "adequate protection" standard, as required by the EU Data Protection Directive for transfers of personal data to third countries. A formal decision under the Directive (Article 25.6) to approve the "safe harbor" principles as providing "adequate protection" would require the support of a qualified majority among the Member States. To complete the framework, it is necessary to have, in addition to the principles themselves, a clear understanding on how the "safe harbor" would work. The focus of discussions has now shifted to these additional questions, some of which have been resolved (for example, the Department of Commerce will maintain a list of organisations that have signed up to the "safe harbor" principles, so there will be certainty about who is entitled to "safe harbor" benefits) and some have not (for example, how long should US companies have to sign up to the "safe harbor" and implement the principles). The package as a whole is designed:


- to provide guidance to companies and other organisations in the US who want to meet the "adequate protection" standard
- provide the necessary legal certainty for those adhering to the agreed standard that their data transfers will not be interrupted and
- create thereby a more predictable and less administratively burdensome framework, ensuring high data protection standards for data transfers to the US.

The key feature of the "safe harbor" approach is that it creates a bridge between the EU's legislative approach to data protection and that of the US, which - while having considerable legal underpinning - relies mainly on self-regulation.
The Commission will consult Member States on the current state of play in the dialogue with the US at meetings scheduled on 10 and 14 June in the framework of the Committee established under Article 31 of the Directive. The issue will also be discussed with the advisory group of Member States' data protection commissioners (Article 29 Committee) on 7 June. For further details: E1@dg15.cec.be

8.2 Data protection - Commission launches study to examine adequacy E1@dg15.cec.be of rules in third countries DGXV is to put out to tender a study examining the adequacy of data protection rules in the US, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand following the entry in to force of EU rules on the export of data to third countries. The study will examine existing legislation and administrative practices in these countries, as well as the effectiveness of dispute resolution mechanisms and sanctions against infringements. The study is expected to begin end-1999 and last 12 months (Full details on request).

8.2 Commission hosts conference on access to public sector information As the final stage in its public consultation on the Green Paper, the Commission hosted a conference on access to public sector information in the single market. Discussions focused on key issues such as access to information, pricing and commercial exploitation. The Commission has indicated that it will publish a follow up Communication towards end-1999 on points of consensus and areas for EU action. (Further details available on request).

8.3 Talks continue on proposal agreement on shared responsibility in the paper sector
Pressure is mounting on federations representing industries in the paper chain to support the proposed environmental agreement on shared responsibility. The Confederation of European Paper Industries (CEPI) will hold a further meeting with other federations in June with a view to opening formal negotiations with the Commission. A number of industries represented in the paper chain have strong reservations, in particular concerning certain legal aspects of the proposal and liability arising from participation. The EPC has joined other publishing groups in opposition to an agreement.

8.4 Recycled content - Commission expected to launch another study
The European Commission is expected to launch a second study in to the desirability of a minimum recycled content for paper and board. This initiative follows on from a similar study on the content of newsprint. The study will last about 6 months.

8.5 Corporate governance - OECD adopts guidelines but European Company Statute fails again
The OECD Ministerial Conference in Paris (26-27 May) has adopted guidelines of best practice in the area of corporate governance. The recommendations cover legal, institutional and regulatory structures and are intended to offer guidance to bodies such as investors, corporations, stock exchanges. The guidelines can be consulted at: Error! Bookmark not defined. Meanwhile, the EU's Social Affairs Council failed to achieve unanimity on the proposed Directive on worker participation in the European company. Spain blocked agreement by opposing the proposed voting mechanism for the introduction of worker participation. The issue will be discussed again at the Cologne Summit, 3-4 June.

Documents available on request

European Commission
- revised proposal for a Directive on copyright and related rights
- Non-paper on taxation of electronic commerce: options for the EU VAT system
- Communication on the competitiveness of European enterprises in the face of globalisation
- White Paper on commerce
- Working party on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data - latest opinions on data protection on the internet
- Green paper on Public Sector Information in the Information Society
- Green paper on Piracy and Counterfeiting in the single market
- Draft Communication on competitiveness of e-commerce
- Communication on Convergence
- Evaluation report on the INFO 2000 programme
- draft Directive amending Directive 80/723/EEC on the transparency of financial relations between Member States and public undertakings

European Parliament
Draft Directive on electronic commerce (first reading - co-decision)
- first reading resolution (based on Oddy report)

Draft Directive on copyright (first reading - co-decision)
- first reading resolution (based on Barzanti report)

WIPO Treaties (consultation) - procedure suspended
- Legal Affairs Committee - draft report (Habsburg-Lothrigen)
Culture Committee - adopted opinion (Kerr)

Draft Directive on a European framework for electronic signatures (first reading)
- first reading resolution (based on Ullmann report)

Draft Commission Directive to ensure that telecommunications networks and cable TV networks owned by a single operator are separate legal entities
- adopted resolution (based on Watson report)

Draft Directive on information and consultation of workers (first reading - co-operation procedure)
- first reading resolution (based on Ghilardotti report)

Consumer Action Plan 1999-2001
- adopted resolution (based on Whitehead report)

White Paper on Commerce
- adopted resolution (based on Garosci report)

Council
- Telecoms Council conclusions on convergence
- draft Culture Council conclusions on convergence (to be adopted 28 June)
- political agreement on a common position on the Draft Directive on electronic signatures
- political agreement on amended Regulation No 17/62/EEC & amendment Regulation No 19/68/EEC (vertical restraints)
Economic & Social Committee
- working document on pluralism and concentration in the media

EPC Documents
- latest statements from the Ad Hoc Alliance against unfair competition in the broadcasting and new services markets
- EPC final position paper on e-commerce
- Press releases on copyright
- Minutes of the EPC meeting held 28 April
- speech by Mr. Francisco Pinto Balsemao - "Control - them or us?", ICC/UNICE conference "Advertising matters", 27 April 2023

Others
German Presidency seminar on self-regulation
- conclusions

Marketing in schools - study by GMV Conseil (Paris)
- carried out for DGXXIV, European Commission

OECD
- draft guidelines on consumer protection and electronic commerce

WIPO - draft database Treaty
- Consultation documents

WIPO - audiovisual performers Treaty
- consultation documents

CEPI - Towards a European Agreement on the Recovery of Paper and Board Products
- draft paper on producer responsibility

Media Group
- Interim report for study on the competitiveness of EU publishing industries

Bonn University study on advertising and children
- results of academic survey and statistical data

Council of Europe
- recommendation on measures to promote media pluralism - text formally adopted the Committee of Ministers (Jan. 99)
- draft Convention on the legal protection of services consisting of or based on conditional access

Association of Commercial Television (ACT)
- Position paper on public service broadcasting



For further information please contact:
General Enquiries: Angela Mills
Telephone: +44 (0)1865 310 732 
Facsimile: +44 (0)1865 310 739 
Press Enquiries: Heidi Lambert 
Telephone/facsimile +32 2 735 3603