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Doubling down on the link tax

As if the link tax wasn't bad enough.

What do you do when you stumble across an idea so bad that it stifles free expression, kills innovative new services, and creates huge legal uncertainty for Internet users everywhere? Well, you double down, of course!

This seems to be exactly the approach of the French Senate in adopting (after first reading) a new bill that would apply the now-infamous ‘link tax’ – or ancillary copyright* if you want to say the whole mouthful – to images on the Web. 

As CCIA writes in its recent blog on the issue:

Search engines would have to pay collecting societies a levy for pictures they automatically index, even if they are free to use. Such a measure would make it harder for consumers to find information, deter such image search and sharing services from operating on the French market, and would fragment the Digital Single Market.

For Internet users like you and me, the implications of this law would be similar to those for ancillary copyright on snippets of text: they would make what you’re looking for even harder to find on the Web, and would actually harm the creators they purport to protect.  

Or as our friendly, neighbourhood IPKat puts it:

Would it be realistic to expect that search engines would pay to index and display relevant thumbnails, even of images that are lawfully and freely accessible on third-party websites (including those run by relevant copyright owners)?

This Kat suspects that this may be hardly the case. If so, then in-copyright images might potentially become harder to find if one does not know exactly what is looking for (so that he/she can go directly to the website of interest). Would this make life easier to creators and those who wish to make their work known to broader audiences? This Kat suspects that a measure of this kind could defeat the very purpose of the French bill, ie to incentivise the freedom of creation (la "liberté de la création").

We’ll be watching this case closely as the bill moves to the French National Assembly for a second reading. In the meantime, we’re holding out hope that decision-makers come to their senses and refuse to place a fee on linking to images on the Web.

If you haven’t yet, join our network to Save the Link.



* EDIT: Ancillary copyright is the less-than-great plan to force aggregators to pay a fee for using snippets of text to link to articles that are freely available elsewhere online. 'Aggregaors' may sound like an abstract term, until you realize that could be anyone who links to several different sources in one place. The OpenMedia homepage, for example, pulls together great research, blogs, and news from other sources talking about digital rights. Here's a great TechDirt article– you see that link! – if you want to read more. 

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