Image for Article 11 reaches tipping point as hundreds of academics and organisations say NO to the link tax this week.
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Article 11 reaches tipping point as hundreds of academics and organisations say NO to the link tax this week.

The clamour against Article 11’s link tax proposal has been overwhelming, with a huge growth in organisations from a broad range of fields and expertise adding their name to the opposition. 

It's been a powerful week in the fight against the link tax. 

On Tuesday we co-organised an open letter of organisations, from civil society to European businesses and library associations, writing to Axel Voss MEP asking him to delete Article 11. In total 59 different organisations signed on. We responded urgently to his latest push for fees for sharing news. His proposal was to expand the link tax to also give 'press agencies' this right. This would effectively give them control over spreading facts. Our letter reiterated the empirical evidence that the law, in both the original and amended forms, would be a disaster for access to information and for European media diversity. The momentum only went upwards from there. 

On Wednesday OpenMedia joined a letter with over 145 organisationswriting to the EU Council, who are simultaneously steamrolling over civil society concerns. In this joint statement we say, “with so many legal uncertainties and collateral damages still present, this legislation is currently destined to become nightmare”, and implore the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council to “adopt a decision-making process that is evidence based.”

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) spoke up about how even the fight against corruption will be hurt by this copyright law. The reputable independent investigative journalism organisation said, “Unhindered circulation of and linking to our stories is essential to achieve any meaningful impact on corruption and organized crime. Any action that might undermine this most basic tenet of the open web risks undermining independent media organizations like OCCRP… dozens of reporters, editors, researchers, fact-checkers, translators, technologists, and graphic designers.” 

If paid licenses are required to share extracts from articles, we will see a huge loss of access to news. This is the case, not just for mainstream news outlets, but for all investigative journalism, its sources, local news, and the many niche online papers. 

On Thursday, academics added their voices in an open letter with 169 individual signatories from 25 research institutes.  Scientists’ concern about the impact on research is being picked up by press, and gaining traction in the EU. Their powerful  letter suggests that it’s time to scrap the Copyright Directive entirely: “If the legislation progresses in the form proposed by the recent drafts of the Bulgarian Presidency and JURI rapporteur Voss, we call on you to reject the Proposed Directive altogether. It will not serve the public interest.”

We’ve been holding out hope that it wouldn’t come to this.  After all, at the beginning of this process we were promised a law that would work for the 21st Century. Copyright legislation that understood how people actually use material, and encourage creativity in its structure was our dream - instead of monopolising media with the same old stale system of collecting agencies and licensing fees.
Sadly, for a long time legacy media organisations have captured the law-making process and de-railed the hopes of a more progressive forward-looking law. Rejecting the legislation entirely is the last resort, and if we don’t see a u-turn soon, we will have to support this call too.

However, given the momentum we are seeing right now as hundreds of media, civil society, library, journalism education and research organisations stand up with us against this dangerous law: I believe that we can win the fight. 

If you want to join with them in taking action, call your MEP and share your voice today.