Library of Congress

Law Library of Congress

The Library of Congress > Law Library > News & Events > Global Legal Monitor

The Global Legal Monitor is an online publication from the Law Library of Congress covering legal news and developments worldwide. It is updated frequently and draws on information from official national legal publications and reliable press sources. You can find previous news by searching the Global Legal Monitor.

Italy: Decree Amending Regulations on Observatory for Fight against Pedophilia and Child Pornography to Take Effect

(July 6, 2020) On July 8, 2020, a regulation containing amendments to a 2007 ministerial decree establishing measures to protect minors from sexual exploitation and abuse and creating the Observatory for the Fight against Pedophilia and Child Pornography will enter into effect in Italy.

The new regulation, Decree No. 62 of April 15, 2020, primarily institutes structural and administrative changes to the observatory, whose function is to coordinate the activities of the Italian government in preventing and combating the sexual abuse and exploitation of minors. Under the new decree, the observatory will operate under the Department for Family Policies, whose chief will preside over the observatory. The work of the observatory will be performed by representatives drawn from several ministerial units who have competence in matters pertaining to family policies, the national police forces, and national organizations working on the concerned topics. (Decree art. 1.1(c).)

The decree expressly excludes the compensation of its staff for their service, other than the reimbursement of expenses incurred for participating in necessary observatory activities. (Decree art. 1.1(d).)

The observatory prepares an annual technical-scientific report summarizing its activities and containing statistics and strategies for monitoring pedophilia in the country. This report, in turn, becomes a part of the annual report that the president of the Council of Ministers presents to the Italian Parliament.

Back to Top

Germany: Desecration of EU Symbols Criminalized

(July 6, 2020) On June 24, 2020, an amendment to the German Criminal Code entered into force that makes the desecration of European Union (EU) flags and the EU hymn a crime punishable by imprisonment for up to three years or a fine. In particular, it criminalizes desecrating the EU flag or hymn publicly, in a meeting, or by disseminating written materials. Furthermore, removing, destroying, damaging, rendering unusable or defacing, or committing defamatory mischief on the EU flag is also a crime.

In addition, the amendment criminalizes the public desecration of flags and state symbols of foreign states. Flags that resemble the official flag so closely as to be indistinguishable from the official flag are also covered. Before the amendment, the desecration of flags and state symbols of foreign states was punishable only when they were put on public display and not in other circumstances, such as during a protest. Furthermore, the amendment eliminates the requirement that the German government agree to prosecuting the desecration.

Background

The amendment of the Criminal Code combined two different drafts, one submitted by the German states and one by the federal government. The draft of the German states was intended to close a gap in the protection of EU symbols. The explanatory memorandum to the amendment states that protection is necessary due to the “particular importance of the European Union to Germany” and “Germany’s special responsibility towards the European Union” in that Germany has transferred sovereign powers to the EU and is a founding member of the EU. The level of penalty chosen follows the one applicable to the desecration of German state symbols.

The government’s draft to extend protection to symbols of foreign states resulted from an incident in December 2017 in which protesters burned an Israeli flag. The current criminal provision of the code, section 104, has a two-fold purpose: protecting the reputation of the foreign state and protecting the diplomatic relations between Germany and the foreign state in question. The Recommendation and Report of the Committee on Consumer Protection states that burning a flag of a foreign state at a protest such as happened in December 2017 equally affects the principles that section 104 is meant to protect. (Recommendation and Report at 14.)

The German parliament (Bundestag) rejected an amendment proposed by the party “Alternative for Germany” (AfD), a Euroskeptic party. The AfD stated that the proposed criminal norm constitutes an “excessive infringement of freedom of expression and freedom of the arts.” Furthermore, the party contended that there was “no need in society nor a constitutional justification for a criminal norm protecting EU symbols.” In the opinion of the AfD, such a criminal norm constitutes “an unlawful attempt to enshrine a certain political world view in the general awareness by threatening criminal punishment.” The AfD therefore proposed to limit the criminal norm to the desecration of flags of foreign states.

Back to Top

France: Bill Intended to Create New Status for Platform Economy Workers Defeated in Senate

(July 2, 2020) On June 4, 2020, a bill intended to create a separate employment status for workers in the gig economy was defeated in the French Senate. This bill, submitted to the Senate on September 11, 2019, aimed to fill a gap in French employment law.

As noted in the commission report drafted by one of the bill’s sponsors, French employment law distinguishes between employees and independent contractors, with the former enjoying substantial protections under the Code du travail (Labor Code), such as guaranteed remuneration, guaranteed periods of rest, the right to engage in collective bargaining, and the right to a social protection. These protections are premised on the idea that employees are in a situation of subordination to their employers, which makes them vulnerable.

Independent workers, by contrast, do not enjoy the same levels of protection on the premise that they are not in a situation of subordination. The rise of online platforms to facilitate new work relationships—the so-called “platform economy” or “gig economy”—has changed the premises upon which the traditional dichotomy between employees and independent workers were founded. According to the sponsors of the Senate bill, the independence of many workers of the gig economy is illusory, as they tend to find themselves in a situation of subordination to the platforms through which they work. The bill therefore sought to remedy this problem by creating a new type of labor contract that would provide most of the protections that salaried employees enjoy while preserving the workers’ autonomy.

The bill aimed to build upon a 2016 law that created a “principle of social responsibility” for platforms, which includes the requirement that they pay for the workers’ insurance against work-related accidents, pay for any professional training that they might require, and respect their workers’ rights to unionize and to go on strike. Judging these guarantees positive but insufficient, the bill proposed to create a new type of labor contract that would apply to the relationships between gig economy workers and the platforms through which they operate. Under the bill, much of the French Labor Code would have become applicable to these labor contracts, nevertheless with certain accommodations. For example, platform workers would be subject to maximum daily and weekly work hours, but would otherwise be free to choose their work schedules. The bill would also have introduced collective bargaining into the relationship between platforms and workers, with yearly negotiations between the platforms and workers’ representatives. Furthermore, gig workers would have access to unemployment insurance and to the general health insurance system. Additionally, the bill would have introduced a right of information and expression regarding the algorithms that determine certain essential aspects of the work relationship.

As per the usual legislative procedure, the bill was first discussed in a commission, and the commission voted against it. The bill was then discussed in a plenary session of the Senate, during which it was again voted down. The bill was supported neither by the government, nor by any of the Senate’s centrist and conservative majority. While all tended to agree that gig workers need more protections, some of the bill’s critics argued that despite a few accommodations for flexibility, it almost turned platform workers into salaried employees, against the preferences of many platform workers. The government and the senatorial majority also expressed opposition to the idea of creating a third category of workers whose status is midway between that of employees and of independent workers. Instead, as at least one senator argued, certain social benefits should be universalized to protect independent contractors as well as salaried employees.

The question of gig workers’ status is bound to return before the Sentate and the other chamber of the French Parliament, the National Assembly. In January 2020, the prime minister created a working group headed by Jean-Yves Frouin, a former judge of the Cour de cassation, France’s highest jurisdiction in civil matters. This working group, referred to as the “mission Frouin” (Frouin Mission), was initially set up to study platform workers’ unequal bargaining power against the online platforms through which they work, but its mission was broadened to include all other problems that these workers face, including working hours, remuneration, training, and social protections. The Frouin Mission’s work was initially scheduled to submit its final report in June 2020, but this date was pushed back to October due to the coronavirus pandemic. Parliamentary discussions on this topic are expected to occur after that.

Back to Top

Italy: Constitutional Court Declares Revocation of Certain Criminal Offenders’ Driver’s Licenses Unconstitutional

(July 2, 2020) On May 29, 2020, the Italian Constitutional Court issued a decision declaring unconstitutional a provision of the New Highway Code that established the automatic revocation of certain criminal offenders’ driver’s licenses. (Decision No. 99 of May 27, 2020.)

Background of the Case

The regional administrative court (Tribunale Amministrativo Regionale, TAR) for Italy’s Marche region raised a constitutional legitimacy question regarding the power of a prefect (police chief) to revoke the driver’s license of a released convicted criminal still subject to anti-Mafia preventive measures because, according to article 120, paragraph 2 of Legislative Decree No. 235 of April 30, 1992 (New Highway Code), “The recipient of the revocation order cannot obtain a new driver’s license before at least three years have passed … ‘even if a judicial order declaring that the subject no longer poses any danger [to public safety] is issued’.”

The constitutional referral argued that the language of the challenged provision in the New Highway Code specified that the prefect automatically “provides” for the revocation of the license instead of “can provide” at the prefect’s discretion for the revocation of the license. The claim noted that the automatic nature of the revocation would impede the offender from carrying out lawful work activities during the whole period of the respective sentence, thus making the measure even more onerous than what the criminal judge had intended. (Considerations of fact § 1, para. 2.)

The constitutional referral claimed that the challenged provision violated articles 3, 4, 16, and 35 of the Italian Constitution (English translation), which guarantee, in general, equality before the law and due process, the right to work and its protection through international agreements, freedom to reside anywhere in the country and to leave and reenter the national territory, and the right to emigrate from Italy. (Considerations of fact § 1, para. 1.)

Reasoning of the Court

The court reasoned that its previous case law had deemed the automatic revocation of the driver’s license by the prefect as contrary to the principles of equality, proportionality, and reasonableness. (Considerations of law § 4.3, para. 2.) The court highlighted the arbitrariness of the provision in that other criminal provisions establish the measure of revocation against offenders who have been convicted or suspected of criminal offenses of different levels of severity, ranging from crimes of high social alarm (such as terrorism and Mafia-type associations) to crimes of less intense social danger, including those criminals who habitually live, even partially, off the proceeds of criminal activities. (Considerations of law § 5, para. 3.) The challenged provision, instead, applied the automatic revocation to much less serious crimes and prevented the affected individuals from finding substantive gainful employment. (Considerations of law § 5, para. 5.)

Holding of the Court 

The court concluded that the application of the same penalty to conduct that is meaningfully different in its gravity and dangerousness is inherently unreasonable and violates essential principles of the Italian Constitution. (Considerations of law § 5, para. 7.) Accordingly, the court declared the constitutional illegitimacy of article 120, paragraph 2, of Legislative Decree No. 285 of April 30, 1992 (New Highway Code) because it establishes that the prefect must revoke the driver’s license of criminal offenders who are or have been subject to anti-Mafia preventative measures. (Holding, para. 1.)

Back to Top

International: World Intellectual Property Organization Announces Service Providing Evidence of Intellectual Assets’ Authorship

(July 1, 2020) On May 27, 2020, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) announced a new service called WIPO PROOF, which reportedly provides evidence of the existence of digital files in any format at a point in time in order to document their authorship.

According to WIPO, because creative activities are increasingly digital, global, and collaborative, they generate a wide array of data files containing valuable content throughout the production process. This content is produced in a wide variety of intellectual property projects, including trade secrets, scripts, musical scores, research results, data sets, and artificial intelligence algorithms.

To prevent their misappropriation, it is helpful for these outputs to be documented at every step of development, regardless of whether they eventually become formal intellectual property rights.

PROOF aims at helping creators take verifiable steps to safeguard these outputs of their work by generating tamper-proof evidence proving that a digital file was created at a specific point in time and hasn’t been altered since then. PROOF’s fee-based technology creates a token (i.e., a date- and time-stamped digital fingerprint of a file or data) that can be used as evidence in a legal dispute to establish prior existence, thus helping prevent misuse and misappropriation.

The benefits of using PROOF’s applications for intellectual property projects include the following:

  • The use of the applications in trade secret strategies to certify the existence of a file or data at a specific point in time concretely demonstrates that the file or data has value and steps have been taken to protect it.
  • The ability to prove the existence of creative works at the time of creation is fundamental to protecting them from potential misappropriation or infringement.
  • The employment of PROOF to manage valuable data sets, such as scientific research data or data for training AI models, is useful in that the existence and possession of each iteration of a data set can be formally documented in a matter of seconds.

Anyone can have access to PROOF’s secure website to obtain a token for a particular digital file through a one-way algorithm that interacts with the requester’s browser to generate a unique digital fingerprint of the file. Afterwards, third parties can verify such tokens on PROOF’s website, which provides evidence in the event of disputes and litigation over the existence of a digital file and its intellectual property rights.

Back to Top