Judgment of the European Court of Justice (Grand Chamber) C-588/21 P – Public.Resource.Org and Right to Know v Commission and Others

The recent ECJ judgment of 5 March 2024 concerning public access to four Harmonized Standards under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 concluded that harmonized standards are covered by the right of access to documents under EU law. Harmonized standards are subject to copyright protection, however, the ECJ finds that there is an overriding public interest in the disclosure of harmonized standards.

European standards play a very important role within the internal market, for instance through the use of harmonized standards in the presumption of conformity of products to be made available on the market with the essential requirements relating to those products laid down in EU legislation. The problem with harmonized standards is that they are not openly available, and accessing them tends to be expensive. This is particularly significant in the context of the adopted AI Act.

Under the AI Act, harmonized standards and the work of CEN/CENELEC becomes crucial in regards to compliance with legal requirements that are meant to protect fundamental rights from the risks posed by AI technologies. This arguably makes the standards even more essential for the entire AI ecosystem and its stakeholders.