We wish you a wonderful start into your weekend and week with the newest Krautshell edition.
Enjoy and ping us for more!
FIRST, SOME SOLID INTEL:
To Block or Not to Block? That is the Question…
Much like winter, the upload filters are indeed coming. This week, the Federal Ministry of Justice’s (BMJV) draft to adapt German copyright law to the requirements of the European digital single market confirmed that online content in Germany will be regulated more intensely in the near future. More specifically, the BMJV wants to oblige platforms to automatically check content for copyright violations in real-time as the user uploads content.
Awesome! Everyone loves copyright protection, right? If you’re a publisher or work in the music industry, definitely. However, there are many concerns in broader society about how upload filters could shape the future of the internet and content-creation. Young people, for example, protested heavily against the adoption of the EU copyright regulation roughly a year ago, fearing it would spell an end to meme content, parodies, and TikTok videos. (It’s a rough year for Generation Z). Taking it one step further, there are concerns that blocking copyrighted material is a slippery slope eventually leading to suppression of opinions through similar censoring. Either way, Germany is obliged to implement the EU copyright regulation into national law, but make sure to grab your popcorn for the inevitable ugly battles to come when the final version of the law is debated in the German parliament.
Give Us Your Money: Higher Price for Carbon in Germany in 2021
Already in 2019, the Federal Government presented the first draft for another climate-related law. Basically, it sets a consumption price for CO2. Every ton carbon dioxide released gets a price for the producer and ultimately for the consumer. The German law impacts the transport and construction sectors, which, until now, were not part of the bigger EU emission trading scheme. Currently, the scheme covers sectors like energy production with coal.
Starting in 2021, one ton of CO2 will cost €25. Originally, the governing coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD (probably mainly only the CDU) aimed for a price of €10. According to economists, this would have had NO EFFECT whatsoever. Enter the Greens: the new law has to be agreed not only by the Parliament but also by the Federal Council (the States), where the Greens are well-represented in various state governments. The agreed-upon price is a victory for the Greens and showed their political sway on a federal level. It definitely also demonstrated their aspiration to be part of the next Federal Government.
Conflicts about the New Patent Law Proposal in Germany
Federal Minister of Justice, Christine Lambrecht (SPD), wants to modernize patent law in Germany. Mainly, she wants to do this by mitigating the possibilities for injunction suits. Digital products in particular are getting more complex and sometimes contain up to 100 components that might be subject to a certain patent. This created an industry of patent exploitation companies: companies without any business activities that just hold various patents (often of poor quality) and sue whenever a company develops something that might be part of their patent. Currently, requirements for injunction suits are loose. Lambrecht wants to tighten those up and put a proportionality assessment for every case in place.
Mobile communication companies and patent exploiters are protesting heavily against the proposal, while companies like BMW, VW and Adidas support Lambrecht’s efforts. The protesters warn that the law would harm the innovation potential of Germany. However, the fact that companies who “actually” produce new products favor the approach might be a hint that it could actually strengthen competition in Germany. Ping us if you want to know what that could mean for your genius invention you wanted to take out a patent in Germany for soon.
Is the Conflict in the Coalition Actually Mainly A Conflict in the CDU/CSU?
This week, a political conflict that was ongoing for quite some time escalated (by German standards, at least). There are often harsh discussions between the governing partners SPD and CDU/CSU. However, this week the business wing of the CDU/CSU seemed to have had enough of the SPD. The business wing issued a paper in which they attacked 55(!) draft bills and bills already agreed upon introduced by their partner in the government. Point of conflict: those bills are harming the industry, at least according to the CDU/CSU business wing.
Despite the conflict with the SPD, this week’s events give an insight into an internal conflict in the CDU/CSU. Indeed, the business wing is also attacking one of their own men. The chairman of the faction, Ralph Brinkhaus, has to deal with criticism that he didn’t adequately protect industry interests in discussions with the SPD. This conflict might be another hint for the party’s future orientation. How much influence do the industry-friendly politicians in the party still have?
Working from Home – Guaranteed by Law
Benefits of the home office or mobile working existed already before Corona. However, various employees in Germany weren’t allowed to work from home before the pandemic. Now, Federal Minister of Labor Hubertus Heil (SPD) wants to target that topic with a new law. German employees shall have a legal right to mobile work or working from home for two days each month, as long as there are no “operational reasons” speaking against this.
The Chancellery and the CDU/CSU stopped Heil. The law wasn’t agreed upon in the coalition agreement and they resent Heil for presenting his idea to the media to pressure the CDU/CSU. He’s done this before with the law for the basic pension and got away with it. The CDU/CSU doesn’t want to give him a second success. With only one year to go, it’s becoming visible that the governing parties are getting more aggressive, not granting each other victories.
How to Ensure AI Doesn’t Take Over the World? Standardization!
Last week, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) concluded its project “Ethical aspects in standardization for artificial intelligence in autonomous machines and vehicles,” publishing its results in a white paper. While the project’s title is certainly a mouthful, its objectives were quite straightforward: assess the current state of standardization, and investigate where greater AI-standardization can be applied in the future. Thomas Jarzombek (CDU), BMWi’s representative for digital economy and start-ups commented on the importance of the project, stating, “Norms and standards can guarantee a comprehensible and safe use of [AI systems] for consumers, users and manufacturers.”
The resulting white paper recommended, among other things, that standardization bodies should establish concrete criteria, against which AI can be tested to ensure respect for human autonomy, as well as more standardized criteria related to the explainability, traceability, verifiability, security, and data protection of AI systems.
Much like how uniform data protection standards in Europe eventually led to the creation of the world-leading General Data Protection Regulation, Europe, and more specifically Germany, is once again trying to set clear, global standards (this time for AI) that eventually lead to legally-binding laws or regulations. For more info on this white paper, the AI project, or questions on why Europeans love regulations so much, feel free to ping us.
LONG STORY SHORT:
- Killing EY Softly: The auditor EY is now directly linked to the Wirecard scandal (we reported), as they signed off on Wirecard’s balance sheet for years, allegedly not realizing that the company might be commiting fraud. Now, an employee of EY India has come forward stating EY took bribes from Wirecard to cover up their fraud four years ago. Consequently, it seems that more and more companies are dropping EY as their auditor.
- Wear a Mask: Masks are obligatory in various places in Germany. Now, they are also obligatory in the German Parliament, which is only sensible as Berlin currently counts as a risk area. Members of the right-wing party AfD want to file a suit against that, which we can only answer with a shake of the head.
- Parliament’s just Too Big: The German parties have discussed an electoral reform for years. Main target: reducing the size of the Bundestag. In theory, there should be 598 parliamentarians. In practice, there are 709 because of many complicated reasons. The approach agreed upon by the governing coalition would have reduced the size after the results of the 2017 election by 27. Not exactly what you would call a “big step forward”.
WHAT’S ON OUR MINDS
More Yummy, Less Awe
Two Belgian regional governments have gone into quarantine after a minister in each tested positive for Covid-19. The MP of the Brussels region also tested positive. Brussels has closed all bars and banned alcohol and outdoor food consumption for at least one month as corona numbers continue to rise in the Belgian capital. As expected, winter has arrived and the bustling atmosphere close to our office at Place Luxembourg is gone.
Like in a grim classic poem, we all fear this winter and go on like:
“On Europe’s home by Horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore – Is there – is there balm in Brussels?
– tell me – tell me, we implore!”
Quoth officials “Nevermore.”
In a public state of dread when leadership is gone (ok, not gone but “isolated”) who is leading and spreading hope in the capital of the EU? Because, no matter what…
Today, imho, it is the highest official of the EU-Commission herself who is leading with positivity by celebrating her birthday on Instagram with a “horse cake” from her staff and writing about how “yummy” it is.
The passionate equestrienne Ursula von der Leyen brightens my mood and hopefully leads it into a good weekend. Happy birthday, President!