Stakeholders in particular asked for clarifications about how “notice-and-action procedures” should work in practice and this Communication presents an initiative that will help to clarify this. (see question 8).
It starts with a rewrite of the “mere conduit” principle:
Online service providers simply “transmitting” content on the Internet (for instance companies that provide consumers with access to the Internet) cannot be held liable for illegal content that is uploaded by third parties. For example, an Internet access provider cannot be held liable for providing access to an illegal website.
Note that the relationshop between providers and their clients is not covered by the new language.
Online service providers that “host”‘ content on the Internet (for instance websites on which you can view content that users themselves put online) cannot be held liable for illegal content uploaded onto their websites by others, as long as they are not aware of it. However, as soon as they become aware of this illegal content (for example via a notification), they are obliged to remove it or to block access to it immediately.
Finally, governments may not impose a general obligation on online service providers to monitor the content that they transmit or host.
As so many EU phrases “Notice and Action” takes inspiration from the American “notice and takedown”, the difference is “action” and it means blocking and takedown.
“Notice-and-action” procedures refer to rules on removing or blocking of access to illegal content by an online company, after it has received a request to do so. Internet users can submit a notification of illegal content that they have found displayed on the website of an online intermediary (such as a social network, an online vendor or a search engine). To avoid liability, the E-commerce Directive obliges the online intermediary to take action as soon as it becomes aware of the illegal content. Taking action can take the form of takedown (removing content) or blocking (disabling access to content).