Justice and Home Affairs: Parliament Gives Judges More Leeway on Rome II Choice-of-Law Regulation
Press freedom victory.
Parliament endorsed almost all amendments tabled by its Legal Affairs Committee on June 21 but added a couple of important new ones to assuage the concerns of the publishing industry. For violation of privacy and defamation cases, it said the law applicable "shall be deemed to be the country to which the publication or broadcasting service is principally directed". If this is not apparent, for example with internet publications, the law of "the country in which editorial control is exercised" applies. The MEPs add that "the language of the publication or broadcast" and the "sales or audience size in a given country" should be taken into account when determining who the principle audience is.
EU Justice, Freedom and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini told MEPs he was not comfortable with their new defamation/privacy clause. The Commission proposed a different formula, under which the law of the country where the damage occurs would apply unless this breaches the fundamental principles of freedom of expression and information. The European Publishers Council (EPC), which lobbies for the newspaper, magazine and on-line publishing industry, is much happier with Parliament's wording. EPC Director Angela Mills Wade said after the vote: "this is a victory for press freedom and a testament to the efforts of representatives of the whole media sector and the journalists unions who have worked tirelessly to communicate the potential damage of the original text".
Flexibility for courts.
MEPs have deleted specific choice-of-law rules for environmental offences, product liability and unfair competition, opting instead for a general rule that the law applicable "shall be the law of the country in which the damage occurs". Their first reading opinion was backed by the three biggest groups, the EPP-ED, Liberals and Socialists, but the Greens abstained on account of the scrapping of the environmental offences clause. An amendment tabled by the EPP-ED to meet the concerns of the distance selling industry was rejected by 356 votes to 247. It would have given clear precedence to the country-of-origin principle - i.e. the service provider's home country - laid down in the E-Commerce Directive instead of giving judges the flexibility to choose. …