Drafting Ideas for the Revision of Non-hosting Liability Exemptions in the EU
9 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2021 Last revised: 9 Jul 2021
Date Written: August 1, 2020
The European Union is currently discussing a reform of its intermediary liability rules with its recently proposed Digital Services Act. The existing rules in the e-Commerce Directive (Directive 2000/31/EC) offer a safe harbour from liability for certain intermediary functions that are central to the functioning of the internet. A safe harbour for intermediaries is one of the regulatory cornerstones that help protect innovation, creativity and the free flow of information. At the same time, these rules are under pressure. This paper discusses a subset of ‘non-hosting’ intermediary functions. Some of these have traditionally been less visible in content-related regulatory debates. We look at selected examples of functions related to, for instance, the domain name system (DNS), content delivery networks (CDNs), cloud processing and live-streaming. The current liability exemption regime under the e-Commerce Directive focusses on transmission in, or access to, a communication network, as well as storage. However, significant grey areas arise both in relation to what we call the ‘auxiliary network intermediary’ function (as opposed to ‘direct network intermediary functions’, corresponding to ‘mere conduit’ functions), which does not transmit or provide access, and the ‘temporal provision and processing of information’, which is different from storage.
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