The TMT 2023 guide features 29 jurisdictions. The guide provides the latest legal information on the metaverse, the digital economy, cloud computing, AI and big data, the internet of things (IoT), audio-visual media service regulation, telecommunications rules, technology agreements, and trust services and digital signatures.
Last Updated: February 21, 2023
TMT 2023 ‒ Global Overview
The past few years have been deeply marked by the COVID pandemic, which for the technology, media and telecommunications (TMT) sector resulted in a rocketing uptake of digital services and technologies – for example, online communication and videoconferencing technologies, streaming services and online shopping.
As of February 2023, the COVID pandemic is somewhat under control, but the world is changing at an unprecedented rate. From supply shocks to war to extreme weather events to recession, there is a historic level of disorder in the market. Looking at the numerous lay-offs at large global tech companies, the TMT sector is not safe from these turbulent times.
Despite the high degree of uncertainty in the world and in the TMT sector, digital evolution has continued at a swift pace. Furthermore, cybersecurity remains very high on the agendas of business leaders and legislators alike. Legislators are also increasingly focusing on the regulation of the digital economy, big tech companies and new disruptive technologies (such as AI), leading to several legislative initiatives and evolutions.
For those outside the sector – and sometimes even for those inside – it is difficult to remain up to date even on the major developments, both technological and legal. This guide is intended to provide a useful outlook on the legal framework applicable to key areas of the TMT sector, helping you to navigate this constantly evolving sector in which law and technology continuously influence each other.
Given the many rapid developments in the TMT field, the Chambers TMT guide 2023 aims not so much to paint a broad picture covering all possible aspects of the TMT landscape, but to be topic-driven, giving insights into some of the questions with which lawyers and in-house counsel will be most often confronted in this era of permanent change.
The metaverse is a term describing a hypothetical enhanced digital environment in which we will be able to move smoothly between several spheres such as social, work, leisure and retail in one single digital environment. The metaverse could also be seen as the integration of the digital world and the physical world.
It could radically transform the way humans interact with technology and the offerings of technology companies. Meta (Facebook) is a big stakeholder in this respect and has made the metaverse one of its top priorities. No specific laws for the metaverse have been introduced yet, but it raises many questions relating to intellectual property, enforcement, privacy, and cybersecurity.
Digital economy is an umbrella term that describes how traditional economic activities are being reshaped by the internet. New laws are to be expected, given the recent entry into force of the EU Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the EU Digital Services Act (DSA). It is yet to be seen how these will be implemented in the EU member states and what the practical effect on the TMT sector will be.
Cloud and Edge Computing
Nearly everything is “cloud” nowadays – television, music, wallets, work documents, professional contacts, communications, software, even relationships.
For consumers, there is often a trade-off to be made between availability and control, with licensing replacing ownership. For organisations, a decrease in costs generally goes hand-in-hand with higher security standards – as well as provider-dependency.
The legal implications can be diverse, from sector-specific regulations on availability and liability to broader data protection considerations.
Artificial Intelligence and Big Data
In the past few years, digital assistants have invaded our workplaces and homes. From completing an unfinished symphony by a revered composer to carrying out predictions of shopping patterns and learning board games on their own, an increase in the capabilities of machines has created possibilities deemed unthinkable just a few years ago. With developments such as ChatGPT, the uptake of AI is still accelerating.
For businesses, big data promises a better understanding of their customers and patterns, while for consumers, big data may involve a number of undesired side-effects (for example, being subject to profiling or automated decision-making on the basis of all data gathered).
Big data and artificial intelligence also raise important societal and legal questions on topics such as liability and insurance, data protection and intellectual property, jurisdiction, and even fundamental rights. While a few businesses will already be examining whether algorithms also have fundamental rights, there are more immediate concerns they may well wish to consider.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is a small acronym for something so large. In addition to computers and mobile devices, everything in our home and workplace is becoming “connected”. Energy providers are keen to roll out smart metres, and automobile manufacturers are becoming service providers by adding connectivity to their (manual or self-driving) vehicles.
With many of our devices (eg, fridges, lights and watches) connected to the internet, security risks are increasing because of the vulnerability of such devices. Hackers no longer have to directly target laptops or PCs, which have stronger in-built security features, but can rather attack IoT devices, which are often not properly secured, in order to compromise an entire network and access all devices connected to it.
Aside from data protection, some of the legal key words have become more technical, such as machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, communications secrecy and cybersecurity. Any project in this field requires careful consideration and sound legal review.
Audio-Visual Media Services
Today, every organisation can have a digital communications channel, from podcasts to video channels, a realm once reserved for large content providers. Yet, where this is more than a one-off video, the creation of a structure and frequent addition of content can trigger the need to apply for authorisations with the local regulator.
It is therefore important to know whether rules on audio-visual services also apply to online video channels, even on third-party websites featuring user-generated content.
At one time, telecommunications rules would have been considered to apply only to large incumbent telephone and radio operators. Today, voice-over IP (VoIP) and instant messaging solutions have become commonplace in organisations, sometimes even in interactions with customers. Finally, many retailers and product manufacturers have adopted technology-powered labelling in the form of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags.
However, the use of some of these means of communication or technologies (such as 5G) can trigger the application of a strict regulatory regime for which many different obligations can apply, depending on the electronic communication service or network that is provided. While this regime does not always represent an insurmountable cost or effort, it is important to take these factors into account when providing these kinds of services.
Challenges with Technology Agreements
Technology agreements come in different types and sizes and can cover a myriad of technology products and services.
In a global economy, organisations have a broad range of technology providers to choose from, but when selecting a provider and concluding a contract, it is important to be aware of any specific requirements and restrictions.
If data cannot leave a given provider’s country, is it as attractive to work with that provider? Some legal restrictions can be very specific, such as restrictions on price-revision mechanisms. All in all, it is invariably best to be informed of local requirements before making a selection.
Trust Services and Digital Entity
Many transactions are concluded online nowadays. However, this brings forth authentication and identification issues. To battle fraud, trust services, electronic signatures and digital identity schemes have been set up.
Knowing the legal framework applicable to your technology or area of work is fundamental to avoiding unpleasant surprises or undesired obstacles.