EU Digital Content Directive And Evolution Of Lithuanian Contract Law
Lithuania’s national legislature is once more facing the task of implementing another consumer protection directive into national law. This time it is not as easy as it may seem because by adopting the Digital Content Directive, the European Parliament and the Council intentionally left issues of legal classification of digital content contracts and their systemic ties with other bodies of law, such as intellectual property law, for regulation by national law. Hence, the proper time is now to reconsider basic trends of consumer legislation in Lithuania and to identify systemic challenges of implementation of the Directive.
Within the internal structure of Lithuanian civil law, consumer relations belong to the subject matter of the law of obligations. Most often consumer legal relations arise from the contract, less often – in cases of defective production – from the tort. The author proposes to extract almost all consumer private law rules (leaving untouched only marginal exceptions such as private international law rules) from Lithuanian Civil Code and other statutes to a newly created Book 7 “Consumer law”. From one side, it could facilitate concentration and systematization of whole consumer private law in one place, without impairing coherence of other sections in Lithuanian Civil Code. From another side, this option would still maintain consumer law within the scope of Lithuanian Civil Code and influence of civil law doctrine, thus avoiding legal dualism and preventing insufficient academic attention.
According to its legal nature, movable and controllable digital content under Lithuanian law may be treated and protected as a novel form of property. However, normative content of existing Lithuanian Civil Code regarding contractual rules is not specifically tailored for digital goods. In general, Digital Content Directive rules are far more developed and detailed than current Lithuanian Civil Code rules on consumer sales, which transpose various EU directives and are applicable mostly for the sale of tangible goods. Therefore, contracts for supply of digital content deserve to be named sui generis by their nature and should be classified and regulated separately from other nominate contracts. Such a solution would overcome the full set of problems related to complex characterization and cross application of various rules regulating other types of contracts.
Despite that, the Lithuanian Pre-draft mostly reflects a cautious and conservative approach for implementation of the Digital Content Directive within Lithuanian private law. However, Digital Content Directive should significantly enhance protection of consumer rights in Lithuania. Legal innovations and rules specifically tailored for a digital environment will lead to optimization and development of the existing contractual regime. In turn, all this should provide legal certainty on rights and duties of the trader and consumer with the obvious benefit for development of digital markets.
Lithuanian private law