Newmedia-law.com is a blog about Media Law and Intellectual Property Law, focused on new legal developments in Belgian and European law. The blog is fed by Bart Van Besien, a lawyer at Finnian & Columba in Belgium. Do not hesitate to contact me for any question or legal problem you may have in relation to Media Law or Intellectual Property Law (such as copyright, trademarks, patents, domain names or confidentiality issues) in Belgium, the Benelux or the European Union (EU).
How can you register a Benelux trademark?
If you want to register a Benelux trademark, you can apply directly for your trademark online on the site of the BOIP. The Benelux Office for Intellectual Property (BOIP) is the official body for the registration of trademarks and designs in the Benelux. Completion of all formalities takes on average 4 to 6...
Analysis of the New Belgian Copyright Act
In the course of 2014, the Belgian Copyright Act will be integrated into the new "Code of Economic Law." It is the intention of the Belgian lawmakers to bring all federal economic legislation, including copyright but excluding trademark law (which is covered by the Benelux Convention on Intellectual Property)...
US court finds that Google Books does not infringe copyright
The District Court's decision of 14 November 2013 in the case of Authors Guild v. Google is a major victory for Google, and a serious blow for the Authors Guild and other opponents of Google Books. In 2004, Google announced agreements with several research libraries in the US and abroad to digitally...
The Essential Guide to Belgian Copyright Law
Economic rights and moral rights The Belgian Copyright Act makes a basic distinction between moral rights and economic rights. Moral rights are an author's right to disclose his or her work ("divulgation right"), the right to claim or refuse authorship of the work ("paternity right"), and the right to...
Copiepresse versus Google: a legal analysis of news aggregation and copyright infringement under Belgian law
A couple of days ago, my article on "Copiepresse versus Google" was published in the Belgian law review 'Revue du Droit des Technologies de l'Information' (R.D.T.I.). My article examines the legal dispute between Copiepresse and Google before the Belgian courts. This dispute focused on the question whether...
What are the risks of copyright infringement on Pinterest?
Copyright infringements are widespread on Pinterest. People very frequently 'pin' pictures that they just plucked from the internet, without giving any regard to possible copyright consequences. The problem is that those pictures often are under copyright protection, and are not freely available under Creative...
Copyright and social media: rules of thumb under Belgian law
Do the rules of copyright apply to social media as well? The answer is 'yes, they do', though there is often some more room for flexibility when it comes to their practical application. Few court cases on copyright and social media First, it is important to note that there are very few court cases...
How to protect your trademark in Belgium (and the Benelux)?
How can you protect your trademark from improper use, infringement or degeneration? Here are some practical tips and tricks to help you protect your trademark. Effectively use your trademark in the course of your business. Once your trademark is registered, it is important to effectively use it. A trademark that...
Tips for choosing a good trademark
A good trademark should meet some specific legal requirements. This article will give you practical advice on selecting a good and legally sound trademark. Choose a distinctive trademark. In the first place, make sure that your trademark is distinctive enough. Your trademark should be used to set your goods...
Guide to Benelux trademarks
Trademarks often list among the most valuable assets of your business. Therefore, it is important to properly protect your trademarks from infringement or generification. Below is an essential guide to trademark law in the Benelux, to help you properly protect your Benelux trademarks. Different types of...
Overview of the Belgian media landscape
As a result of the transition of Belgium from a unitary to a federal state, the political and the cultural landscape in Belgium is separated along language barriers. This means that there is a separation between the French-language media on the one hand and the Dutch-language or Flemish media on the other hand. In other words, it is more correct to speak about two separate media landscapes, rather than about one general Belgian media landscape. Although these two media landscapes are separate, they present a number of similarities. The following sections will give a detailed overview of the Belgian media landscape. Two separate media landscapes Since the 1970s, Belgium gradually evolved step by step from a unitary state to a complex federal state, where political power is divided between the federal (i.e., Belgian) level, the language-based Communities (i.e., the Flemish Community, the French Community and the...
Google News switches to "Opt-In" in Germany to avoid copyright fees
Google recently announced to make its 'Google News' service "opt-in" instead of "opt-out" in Germany as of 1 August 2013. This decision by Google is a direct reaction to a new German copyright law that will take effect as of the same date. In practice, this means that Google News will only show results from those German news media that have explicitly consented to Google processing and showing their data in its news aggregation service. Before 1 August 2013, Google's stand was that it automatically presented snippets of German news media in its Google News index, except when confronted with an explicit wish of a media publisher not to be included (for instance, through a notification sent to Google, or through use of technical means such as robot.txt files or metatags to prevent indexation and/or publication by Google). In the rest of the world where Google News is operative, the service remains in principle "opt-out",...
Search engines not to remove legitimate information from the internet - no general 'right to be forgotten'
On 25 June 2013, Advocate General Jääskinen of the Court of Justice of the European Union released his opinion on the much debated 'right to be forgotten' in the case of Google Spain v AEPD (which is the Spanish Data Protection Agency). No general 'right to be forgotten' In sum, the Advocate General considers that search engine providers are not responsible for personal data appearing on the web pages that they process, and that there is no general 'right to be forgotten' under the EU Data Protection Directive. Therefore, such a 'right to be forgotten' cannot be invoked against search engine providers on the basis of the Data Protection Directive, even when this Directive is interpreted in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Right to rectification, erasure and blocking of data The Data Protection Directive provides for some specific rights, such as a right to rectification, erasure...
The liability of journalists for defamation and breach of privacy under Belgian law
Belgian courts have quite often been called upon to judge whether a newspaper article or television program breached particular rights of third parties, such as in defamation cases and cases where the privacy of third parties was at stake. As applied to the civil liability of journalists, courts construct the duty of care of journalists to imply that a journalist should pursue the truth, should not use unnecessarily or excessively hurtful words and should respect personal rights such as the right to privacy. As such, the general lines in case law show that civil courts tend to condemn inaccurate or incorrect imputations where there is an obvious lack of evidence; unnecessarily or excessively hurtful words with the sole intention to damage; and breaches to the privacy or other personal rights of individuals. Burden of proof in defamation cases In cases where the honour or reputation of people is at stake (such as in defamation...
Advertising for political parties in Belgian media: is it legal or not?
In an attempt to limit election expenses, and fearing the impact of radio and television on voters, legislation was adopted at the federal level to ban political party advertising on radio and television and partly on the internet (this ban does not apply to the written press). However, when the Communities of Belgium (the Flemish Community and the French Community) started to enact their own separate rules on political advertising on radio and television, things became messy. Federal Belgian law on political advertising Federal Belgian law on the limitation of election expenses forbids political advertising during the election periods in audiovisual media, cinema and on the internet. As such, the Federal Act of 4 July 1989 stipulates that political parties may, during a period of 3 months prior to the election of the Federal Parliament, not broadcast political advertising spots on radio, television or in movies; nor may they...
Advertising rules for Belgian media
Commercial advertising is largely regulated by the Belgian Federal Act on Market Practices and Consumer Protection of 6 April 2010. This Act stipulates that the use of editorial content in the media, for which the advertiser has paid, to advertise a product, when this is not made clear to the consumer, constitutes illegal misleading advertising. Other legislation and regulation on commercial advertising in the media almost exclusively focuses on the audiovisual media. The FLBA (Flemish Act of 27 March 2009 on radio and television broadcasting)  and the FRBA (French-Community Act of 27 February 2003 on audiovisual media services, modified by the Act of 5 February 2009)  contain specific regulations for advertising on radio and television,  where the ‘golden rule’ is that advertising should be clearly identifiable as commercial information and distinguishable from news information. This rule is also...
The protection of freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Belgian media law
The main rules on freedom of expression and information and on press freedom are enshrined in the Belgian Constitution. These articles (Articles 19, 25 and 150) of the Constitution have remained largely unchanged since their first drafting in 1831. This provides for a high degree of stability, but also raises problems with regard to their interpretation in the light of new technologies. Particularly problematic are Articles 25 and 150, which refer literally to the ‘press’ (i.e., ‘the press is free’  and ‘a jury will be installed for press offences’ ), and are, at least according to the Belgian Court of Cassation and some of the lower courts, not technology-neutral. The technology dependency of Articles 25 and 150 is in sharp contrast with the more general Article 19 of the Constitution on freedom of expression and with Article 10 of the ECHR, which do not refer to a certain technology. Constitutional safeguards...
The principle of 'stepped liability' and its implications for the liability of journalists working in Belgium
Article 25 of the Belgian Constitution does not only stipulate that the press is free and that (prior) censorship is not allowed; it also establishes a system of stepped liability for criminal prosecutions and civil liability. Under this system, in principle only the author of a work, and not its publisher, printer or distributor can be prosecuted in Belgium. Only if the author is not known or not resident in Belgium, will the other players come into the picture (in the order listed above). Sadly, there is no scientific research on the impact of this system of stepped liability on freedom of expression. Practical implications of 'stepped liability' for journalists in Belgium Although the shelter offered to publishers, printers and distributors aims to prevent censorship ‘from within’, the practical effect is that individual journalists are largely unprotected from criminal and civil liability claims. In this sense,...
The protection of journalistic sources in Belgium: what do you need to know?
Source protection for journalists working in Belgium. The Act of 7 April 2005 on the Protection of Journalistic Sources protects journalists from investigative measures (such as the interception of communication, surveillance and judicial home search and seizure) if this could breach the secrecy of their sources. Since this Act applies not only to Belgian journalists, but also to the many international journalists based in Brussels or elsewhere in Belgium (who report on bodies such as the EU institutions or NATO), the importance of this Act surpasses the Belgian context. The 2005 Belgian Act on the Protection of Journalistic Sources The new Act on the Protection of Journalistic Sources was enacted on 7 April 2005 (by unanimous vote in the Chamber of Representatives). The Act took into account the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), although it could not prevent subsequent condemnations of...
Competition and ownership rules applicable to the Belgian media sector
The general Competition Act of 10 June 2006 and relevant EU laws apply to the media sector. Structural media regulations almost exclusively target audiovisual broadcasting. The main broadcasting act for the Flemish Community is the Act of 27 March 2009 on radio and television broadcasting (hereafter ‘FLBA’). The main broadcasting acts for the French Community are the Act of 27 February 2003 on audiovisual media services (as modified by the Act of 5 February 2009; hereafter ‘FRBA’) and the Act of 14 July 1997 on the Belgian radio and television of the French Community (hereafter ‘RTBF Act’). Newspapers and magazines There are no special rules for newspapers or magazines concerning ownership, concentration or protection of pluralism, nor are there obligations for newspapers or magazines to provide transparency about their capital structure, shareholders or owners. Audiovisual media For radio and television, the...
ContactBart Van Besien
Finnian & Columba
K. De Deckerstraat 20A
2800 Mechelen, Belgium
+32 486 626 355
+32 15 29 42 57
Bart Van Besien appointed as Arbiter in domain name disputes by ADNDRC
On 25th July 2014, Bart Van Besien was appointed as an Arbiter ('Panelist') in domainname disputes...
EU survey on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in third countries
The European Union's Observatory on Infringement of Intellectual Property Rights recently...
Appointment as arbitrator (panelist) in domain name disputes with Forum (USA) and Cepani (Belgium)
It is a pleasure to announce that I have been appointed as an arbitrator ('panelist' or...
Different ways for a trademark owner to claim back a domain name (gTLD)
If you are a trademark owner, and you find that someone else has registered a domain name identical...
Domain name disputes in Belgium: how to claim back a “.be” domain name?
In this article, I summarize the different ways to recover a Belgian “.be” internet domain...
How to claim back a .eu domain name?
In this article, I summarize how you can recover a .eu domain name. A .eu domain name can be...
New book published: "Media Policies Revisited" by E. Psychogiopoulou
With a contribution by Bart Van Besien and Pierre-François Docquir "Changing Conditions of...
Review of the EU’s proposal for a new data protection regulation
Under E.U. law, personal data can only be gathered under strict conditions. Those who collect and...
EU Commission launches public consultation on copyright reform
The European Commission recently launched a public consultation to gather public input on the...
Facebook 'Like' is protected free speech under First Amendment says US court
The US Fourth Circuit Court of appeals ruled last Wednesday that a 'like' on Facebook is protected...