European Commission proposal to copyright Internet links and snippets reveals shocking disregard for how the Internet works
December 9, 2015
December 8, 2015 – The European Commission looks set to introduce legislation to copyright Internet links and snippets, despite an outcry from Internet users. Under proposals set out in section 4 of the Commission’s Copyright Communication, released today, people could be forced to obtain a copyright license before posting hyperlinks that include snippets or brief extracts of the article being linked to.
The Commission’s proposals also specifically target online services such as news aggregators. Similar ancillary copyright rules introduced in Spain and Germany have proven to be an expensive failure, resulting in a 14 per cent drop in traffic to news publishers in Spain, and forcing several news services out of business. With so many popular websites located in the EU, Internet users everywhere will be affected.
“We’ll all be the poorer if these costly proposals are implemented,” warned Meghan Sali, digital rights specialist for OpenMedia. “Links — and the brief explanatory snippets that go with them — are the lifeblood of the Internet. They connect us to the wealth of news, knowledge, and culture available online. Copyrighting links amounts to Internet censorship and displays a shocking disregard for how the Internet actually works.”
Sali continued: “It’s especially disingenuous for the Commission to claim they won’t place basic links, without snippets, under copyright. Links often only make sense to the reader when they are accompanied by such explanatory signposts. That’s why such a broad range of civil society groups have spoken out against this plan, since it was first leaked a few weeks ago.”
Top copyright experts and decision-makers have spoken out against the idea of copyrighting links and snippets, after a version of the Commission’s proposal was leaked a month ago.
EDiMA, the European Digital Media Association, concluded that ancillary copyright creates “an overwhelmingly negative impact for consumers, for news publishers and for innovation.”
A number of leading European Publishers have warned that ancillary copyright proposals “make it harder for us to be heard, to reach new readers and new audiences. They create new barriers between us and our readers, new barriers to entry for news publishers such as ourselves.”
Petra Kammerevert MEP has pointed to the negative consequences for EU countries such as Spain and Germany which introduced a similar rule.
Julia Reda MEP described the Commission’s leaked plans as “a frontal attack on the hyperlink, the basic building block of the Internet as we know it.”
A broad network of civil society organizations and Internet users have been speaking out about the negative impacts of the Commission’s plans. Over 75,000 people have now signed the Save The Link petition, with nearly 10,000 sending the Commission detailed feedback using the network’s Internet Voice Tool. Many more are speaking out on Twitter at #SaveTheLink.
The Commission has said it will now publish draft legislation within 6 months to reflect the proposals set out in today’s communication. Thousands of Internet users are asking them to think twice at SaveTheLink.org/Listen
OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet.
OpenMedia is an award-winning community-based organization that safeguards the possibilities of the open Internet. We work toward informed and participatory digital policy by engaging hundreds of thousands of people in protecting our online rights.
The Right to Link is under threat in Europe and around the world:
In Germany, influential press publishers forced legislators to implement an ‘ancillary copyright for press publishers’ that limits how others can link to their news websites. The legislation pushes search engines and news aggregators to acquire licenses for links that include snippets, resulting in lost and inaccessible content.
That same approach was then copied in Spain, where Google News was forced to shut down due to new copyright rules forcing web publishers to pay a fee in order to link out to external content.
In Canada, a provincial court passed a ruling ordering Google to block website search results, not just from its Canadian service, but from its worldwide index.
In the U.S., media conglomerates are trying to exploit obscure trade rules to block access to foreign websites they disapprove of.
In Russia, lawmakers have just approved legislation that will force websites to remove search results about a specific person, at that person’s request.
In addition to raising the issue of ancillary copyright (a.k.a. copyrighting links), the Commission consultation also addresses the policy area known as intermediary liability which seeks to make online platforms legally liable for content posted by their users.
Digital rights experts from across the world worked to put together common-sense guidelines for crafting legislation on this issue, noting that “policies governing the legal liability of intermediaries for the content of these communications have an impact on users’ rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to privacy.”
About the Save The Link Network
The Save The Link network formally launched in May 2015, and has since grown to over 78,000 individual supporters, and over 95 civil society organizations and businesses.
Now that these link censorship schemes have been revealed it’s critical for the Internet community to show clear public opposition to these backwards ideas.
We hope this initiative will show decision-makers around the world that censorship plans face fierce opposition, and that we expect them to prioritize free expression online.
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