European Parliament to hold final vote on positive new copyright rules - but last-minute amendment could lead to costly new EU-wide ‘Link Tax’
July 6, 2015
On Thursday, the European Parliament will hold its final vote on a key report on the Harmonization of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the Information Society.
The report recognises that copyright reform is needed to improve the Digital Single Market and to facilitate access to knowledge and culture for all Europeans. Its recommendations have been broadly welcomed by pro-Internet organizations across the European Union and the world, although they were watered down since the report’s original drafting in order to gain consensus.
A last-minute amendment tabled by German MEP Angelika Niebler could pave the way for an introduction of an EU-wide ancillary copyright law - more commonly known as a ‘Link Tax’ - that would have devastating consequences on people’s right to express themselves freely online, and universal access to knowledge. This proposal had already been rejected by the Legal Affairs Committee where the report originated.
A ‘Link Tax’ was introduced in Spain last December, where it forced Google News to shut down operations, and resulted in web traffic to Spanish news sites plunging. In Germany, a similar law was introduced in 2013 and has been viewed as a failure, leading many publishing houses to opt to waive the levy.
A large international Save The Link network comprising over 85 organizations from 30 countries is calling on MEPs to reject the proposal, and any others that would restrict the right to link, or implement fees for linking. Over 65,000 people have signed a petition calling on MEPs to reject the ‘Link Tax’ and other regulations that would restrict the right to link.
The European Parliament vote on Julia Reda MEP’s report on the Harmonization of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the Information Society, and on the ‘Link Tax’ amendment, will take place between 12-2pm CET on Thursday 9 July, 2015.
The European Parliament vote will take place in Strasbourg, France.
Meghan Sali from pro-Internet group OpenMedia said: “This report lays out some really ambitious goals for copyright reform in the digital age. Internet users want to see common sense proposals like this to safeguard our free expression and privacy online. That’s why it’s so frustrating to see old media interests try to hijack this positive process to push forward a ‘Link Tax’ that would undermine the fabric of the free and open Internet.”
Responding to the ‘Link Tax’ amendment, Julia Reda MEP wrote on her blog that: ““We have to make sure that plenary amendment 1 to my copyright report is rejected. European copyright reform must simplify the sharing of knowledge and culture, not impede it with new bureaucracy that is already doomed to fail.”
The Right to Link is under threat 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.
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