Academic Symposium: Harmonizing European Intermediary Liability in Copyright

Date: 14 January 2017, 9.30-17.00.
Venue: University of Amsterdam, Agnietenkapel, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 229-231, 1012 EX Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Max. capacity: 70 persons

See also the programme of the symposium

The Institute for Information Law (IViR) of the University of Amsterdam is organising an academic symposium on European intermediary liability entitled ‘Harmonising European Intermediary Liability in Copyright’.

In view of the new EU copyright reform package, the symposium will examine the issues surrounding intermediary liability in copyright in Europe. Moving beyond the current safe harbour regime, it will explore avenues towards the adoption of a substantive European system.


  • Mr Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm (Brandeis/IViR, University of Amsterdam)
  • Dr Christina Angelopoulos (CIPIL, University of Cambridge)
  • Mr Remy Chavannes (Brinkhof)
  • Dr Quentin van Enis (University of Namur)
  • Dr Martin Husovec (Tilburg University)
  • Prof. Daniel Gervais (Vanderbilt University)
  • Dr Stef van Gompel (IViR, University of Amsterdam)
  • Prof. Thomas Hoeren (University of Münster)
  • Prof. Bernt Hugenholtz (IViR, University of Amsterdam)
  • Prof. Matthias Leistner (LMU Munich)
  • Dr Tarlach McGonagle (IViR, University of Amsterdam)
  • Prof. Martin Senftleben (VU, Free University Amsterdam)
  • Dr Sophie Stalla-Bourdillon (Southampton Law School)
  • Prof. Alain Strowel (Université Saint-Louis)
  • Prof. Dirk Visser (Leiden University)

Intended audience:

The symposium is aimed at academics, lawyers and other professionals involved in questions of copyright and intermediary liability in Europe.

Panel 1: The need for reform

The EU’s safe harbours were adopted over 15 years ago. Given the increased maturation of information society since then, the question arises whether they still serve their initial objectives. Do the justifications for their introduction still apply in the more settled modern technological landscape? How do the immunities interact with the exclusive economic rights of authors over the reproduction of their works and their communication to the public? Can these rights be applied directly to internet intermediaries or has the lack of positively-stated rules on intermediary liability led to over-expansive interpretations? This panel will also critically assess the most recent case law coming out of the CJEU, as well as the Commission’s current proposals in the area of intermediary liability.

Panel 2: The conditions of liability

The safe harbours only determine when liability cannot be imposed on intermediaries – they say nothing about when it should. Should further European harmonisation address that question? In other words, should a positively-stated EU rule on intermediary liability be introduced? If so, what form that should take is worth considering: a European duty of care for internet intermediaries, a European doctrine of accessory liability in copyright or a (newly-crafted or old-and-repurposed) exclusive right for copyright owners? What conditions for intermediary liability such a rule would dictate should also be examined: what should the relevance of the intermediary’s conduct be – should facilitation be sufficient? Is a mental element necessary and if so what should that be? Do different internet intermediaries deserve different legal treatment? In approaching these questions, inspiration will be sought in this panel from national and historical examples, existing European rules, as well as the law of fundamental rights.

Panel 3: Remedies: damages and injunctions

If liability is to imposed on intermediaries, its consequences should also be considered. In Panel 3 the issue of remedies will be discussed. Are damages an appropriate remedy or should only injunctive orders be allowed against intermediaries? Do different internet intermediaries deserve different legal treatment? What criteria can be used to make distinctions? What are the technological constraints and what the constraints set by the EU law of fundamental rights? What room is there for injunctive orders of pan-EU reach? Could a European notice-and-action scheme play a useful role? Particular regard will be had in this context for the case law of the CJEU and – to the extent that it also impacts copyright – the ECHR.

Panel 4: The future of European intermediary liability

The final panel with turn to the future: what could a future European framework for intermediary liability look like? Is a horizontal solution to intermediary liability still appropriate for fields as disparate as e.g. copyright and child pornography or should a vertical approach now be considered? Is traditional state regulation appropriate or may self- or co-regulation deliver better results? What is the interaction between State-imposed rules and industry-adopted codes of conduct? Do human rights bind industry and do they allow State authorities to side-step traditional regulation? What requirements of transparency can be imposed on intermediaries?

  • Moderator: Prof. Bernt Hugenholtz
  • Prof. Thomas Hoeren
  • Prof. Alain Strowel (presentation)
  • Dr Tarlach McGonagle (presentation)

For further information contact:

Institute for Information Law, Faculty of Law, University of Amsterdam
tel: +31 20 5253406