27 November 2009

Romanian Constitutional Court abrogates data retention act


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The framers of the Data Retention Directive must have underestimated several factors in the course of its subsequent implementation. First Ireland brought a challenge before the ECJ then Austria still shows totally reluctant to implement. However, the big bang is currently unrivalled owned by Romania! This country’s Constitutional Court is the first to deliver a ruling that declares an act implementing the directive into a member state’s law unconstitutional.

Prof. Ioan Vida, Romanian Constitutional Court. Courtesy to BOGDAN MARAN / MEDIAFAX FOTO.

Now, after Dracula and Johnny Weissmuller, Romania has, in the person of Prof. Ioan Vida being the President of the Romanian Constitutional Court, good chances to be awarded a third VIP contribution to the world!

Basically, the Court pointed out that the law on data retention interfered with following articles of the Romanian Constitution: Art 25 Freedom of Movement, Art 26 Intimate, Family and private life, Art 28 Secrecy of Correspondence and Art 30 Freedom of Expression. In addition, the Court examined Art 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Art 17 of the International Covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR) and Art 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and found them affected too.

The Court recognized in its reasoning that neither the Romanian Constitution nor the ECHR prohibited state authorities to interfere with the rights mentioned above on a general scale. However, the Court, relying upon the judicateure of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Klass vs Germany and Popescu vs Romania, opined that such interference was permissible only within a narrow path, fenced by sufficient safeguards to protect a person against arbitrary acts of state authorities.

The Court further opined that the legislator has created uncertainty because it used terms in the act that were either not or only ambiguously defined. Such uncertainty was contrary to the drafting techniques which the legislator was required to employ in the course of legislation.

Finally, the Court addressed critically two more issues in the act on data retention. The first critic dealt with the breadth of applicability of the act’s provisions – they were not limited only to wrongdoers, but covered also innocent bystanders. The second regarded the lengthy period of time for which the data were to be retained.

The entire above put together just fortified the majority of Court’s members to vote for the abrogation of the act.

Now, before the opponents and fighters of data retention fall in a state of euphoria, one has to consider that the Court did not reject the act per se. Quiet the contrary! To me, this ruling reads as a cooking recipe directed to the legislator. The recipe contains an enabling set of hints and aims to support the legislator to successfully implement that act later on.

 

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30 October 2009

German Constitutional Court backs the private copying exception


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In a very current decision, the German Constitutional Court

Rejected the Constitutional Complaint

of several phonogram producing companies. The companies in question demanded changes to section 53 (1) of the German copyright act that was amended as recently as of 1 January 2008. Section 53 is part of chapter 6 of the act which deals with limitations to copyright. In particular, section 53 provides that reproductions are permitted for the purpose of individual uses (that is, the use by the person making the copy).

The complainants asserted that section 53 (1) interfered with their constitutionally guaranteed right on property.

The Court rejected the complaint, however, on the grounds of late filing.
Apart from that,

The Court Affirmed That Private Copying Applied to Digital Works

since the 2003 amendments to the copyright act.
Seemingly, the Court opined, the legislator did not intend to undertake changes thereto in the course of the recent 2008 amendments.

The Court further advised on the obligation of manufacturers of copying devices to pay levies (eventually paid by consumers of such devices) that forms a balance to the private copying use.

All in all an important clarification for nowadays’ use of copyright works.