Courts and Internet Governance (Conference, 5 June 2019, Brussels)

Organizers:
Mariolina Eliantonio (Maastricht University, Department of Public Law)
Catalina Goanta (Maastricht University, Law&Tech Lab)
Isabelle Wildhaber (University of St. Gallen, Institute for Work and Employment FAA-HSG)

When issues first arise in connection with how disruptive innovations need to be qualified according to current legal regimes, courts are the ones expected to interpret new developments in the light of established laws. Yet courts – just as lawmakers – are often criticized for their perceived inability to understand technology and keep up with its pace. As innovation develops and transforms Internet architecture, users and governance, marking ashift from the web 1.0 of the early 90’s to the platform-dominated web 2.0, it gives rise to more complex legal questions. On the one hand, with the advent of peer-to-peer economy around platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, AirbnB or TaskRabbit, legal certainty is under siege, as shown by various referrals by national courts in the European Union to the Court of Justice: When is user consent gathered by online sufficiently ‘specific’ and ‘informed’ (Case C- 61/19)? Is a natural person who posts eight ads on a website a trader who is bound by consumer protection (Case C‐105/17)? On the other hand, developments in distributed technologies such as blockchain have in more recent times added decentralization to the already-existing legal uncertainty. While the blockchain space has seen skyrocketing investments, losses arising in relation to fraudulent Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), hardware manufacturing defects or security holes in smart contracts are reported by news outlets, but rarely make it on the desks of judges.

This conference builds on an initial exploration of the topic of decentralization held at the Faculty of Law at Oxford University in March 2019. The event takes the overarching theme of Internet governance, as the vast majority of the data-related issues as illustrated above has been shaped by the increased interconnectivity, use and architecture behind the Internet. The first panel tackle Internet governance from the perspective of the legal certainty necessary for stable markets and societies. The second and third panel zoom into court activity with respect to issues related big data collected, stored or linked online, as well as the circumstances underlying the lack of more litigation relating to blockchain-related wrongs.

Keynote speech: Primavera de Filippi (Harvard University & CNRS)

Full programme and registration here.