Title: Digital Property Rights after the TomKabinet Decision of the CJEU: the Road to Digital Serfdom?
Date: Wednesday 27 January 2021
Speaker: Dr Ioannis Revolidis
The Department of Information Policy and Governance within the Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences is hosting a webinar, starting at 12:15, and followed by an informal discussion on the topic.
During the last days of 2019, a major development took place in EU digital law, even if it has been overshadowed by the more pressing developments created by the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic that happened at the same time. The CJEU has been confronted, in the context of the TomKabinet case, with a fundamental question that has been looming in the background of EU digital law since its conception: can there be property rights in digital goods? Do European citizens hold the same legal powers on their digital assets as they do with their tangible goods? If not, what does the future hold for property rights and all the subsequent freedoms that are dependent upon them?
This is not a mere technical question of copyright or civil law. It is rather a question of fundamental freedoms, of fundamental values and of fundamental power structures. Europe moves rapidly and decisively towards a digital future. A future where the platform economy, propelled by user generated content, big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence aims to transform societies in an unprecedented way. Such societal changes bring about, above all, major power shifts. They are changes of the kind that unroot the old order and everything that has been supporting it (legally, economically, and politically) and establish (in fact, impose) a new socio-economic reality, where, more often than not, the privileged of the previous status quo crumble and fall. In that context, the transcendence of Europe out of its industrially dominated past to a new intangible reality, renders the acquisition and control of physical goods, legally, economically, and politically obsolete. Information becomes the dominant asset and in doing so it makes one wonder: who controls information? This appears to be a mere legal technicality, but it echoes another, more complicated and more critical question: who controls the future?
Viewed from that lens, the CJEU decision in the TomKabinet case is much more than an evolution of EU copyright law. On the contrary. It signals, even with some delay, the societal change that has been brewing for the past, at least, two decades within the EU, namely the irreversible transition from the brick-and-mortar society to the informational society. For all its importance, however, the decision of the CJEU does not answer but merely sets the inescapable question that follows: at the expense of whom shall this transition take place?
To illustrate this ongoing power struggle within the EU, using the TomKabinet ruling of the CJEU as an underlying example, will be the main goal of this presentation.
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