Enhancing Language Protection in the Digital Environment: Proposed Amendments to the Slovenian Language Act

Enhancing Language Protection in the Digital Environment: Proposed Amendments to the Slovenian Language Act

Author: Ema Patricija Končan

The recent amendments to the Public Use of the Slovene Language Act (ZJRS-B) have brought about significant changes with a focus on addressing language protection in the digital realm. These modifications aim to ensure that the Slovenian language is adequately safeguarded in the digital environment, an area that has not been adequately regulated thus far.

The rise of various technologies has sparked discussions among users and experts regarding the effectiveness of the current ZJRS in protecting the Slovenian language in the digital domain. For instance, some popular video-on-demand platforms do not offer Slovenian language options for Slovenian users. Additionally, although some operating system has been available in Slovenian for nearly thirty years, others, despite having a significant user base do not provide the option to select Slovenian as the language. Similar challenges exist among manufacturers of consumer goods, where the inclusion or exclusion of the Slovenian language in user interfaces is solely determined by their business decisions.

Key changes introduced by the amendment include the obligation to provide the Slovenian language in operating systems and voice user interfaces of electronic devices. The new article 15a mandates that electronic devices sold or offered to consumers in Slovenia must allow the selection of the Slovenian language and the use of Slovenian script, ensuring functional equivalence with devices offering other languages. However, exceptions exist for providers or sellers who can demonstrate that the device is not intended for accessing information society services, is not intended for mass market or general use, or hold less than a 10% market share in Slovenia.

Ambiguity surrounds the application of these exceptions, as the ZJRS applies when the use of the Slovenian language for a specific area is not prescribed by a specific law. It remains uncertain whether the exceptions will apply to all providers with less than a 10% market share.

Regarding the Slovenian language on the internet, providers of information society services and intermediary online services with registered offices in Slovenia must offer their content and services in Slovenian to users in Slovenia.[1] This obligation does not apply if the provider can demonstrate that over 90% of their revenues were generated from foreign markets in the previous calendar year or if their website or application attracts over 90% of visitors from foreign countries. Providers without registered offices in Slovenia, therefore seem to be exempt from this requirement.

For foreign-based providers of intermediary services offering services to users in Slovenia, the amendment encourages the use of Slovenian language in their interactions with users and Slovenian authorities. However, it does not impose any mandatory obligations on these providers.

The amendment also explicitly defines “public use of the Slovenian language” thus resolving a significant issue in the existing regulations, ensuring clear obligations and restrictions in line with the intended purpose of the law.

It is important to note that this amendment is currently in the proposal stage. It is worth noting that the proposed amendments are currently open for public comments until July 30, 2023, and the final version will be determined based on these inputs and further legislative considerations.

[1] The definitions of “information society services” and “intermediary online services” remain the same as those in Directive (EU) 2015/1535 and Regulation (EU) 2022/2065, respectively.