Leaked document confirms European Commission misled public, will introduce Link Tax despite huge opposition from Internet users
August 25, 2016
August 25, 2016 – A leaked document released by Statewatch reveals that the European Commission plans to introduce an ancillary copyright for press publishers — a.k.a. the Link Tax. The proposal flies in the face of a pledge made earlier this week, in which the Commission promised on Twitter that “The @EU_Commission does not have any plans to tax hyperlinks.”
The proposals set out in the Commission’s leaked Impact Assessment will enable press publishers to charge a fee for websites that wish to link to their content with a brief explanatory snippet of text — a proposal strongly opposed by over 37,500 people who responded to the Commission’s consultation on the issue, and dozens of civil society organizations which have spoken out against the idea.
Responding to the news, OpenMedia’s Ruth Coustick-Deal said: “It’s appalling to see the European Commission promise one thing in public, while planning the opposite in private. This leak shows that the Commission plans to ignore over 37,500 individuals and preempt the results of their own consultation on this issue – showing a continued disregard for the analysis of experts and a remarkable contempt for evidence-based policy making.”
Coustick-Deal continued: “Taxing links stifles innovation for new online services and ensures the dominance of entrenched players, harming access to information, and severing ties on the Internet. It’s now clear that instead of using reforms to fix copyright, the Commission wants to put the selfish desires of a small handful of media giants ahead of the public interest.”
The Commission’s plan to move ahead with a Link Tax comes despite their own concession that the idea has proven a failure in Spain and Germany, where it has already been implemented. Page 145 of its leaked document states that: "None of these two recent "ancillary rights" solutions have proven effective to address publishers' problems so far, in particular as they have not resulted in increased revenues for publishers from the major online service providers.”
A diverse range of public interest groups, publishers, and web companies have opposed these plans, including the Spanish Publishers Association AEEPP & the German ISP collective, Eco which have recently spoken out about their experiences in countries that have implemented link tax proposals.
Earlier this year, the European Commission promised to take into account the public responses to the consultation on ancillary rights before making any decisions. In response a total of 37,597 people responded to their consultation through OpenMedia’s Save the Link tools, asking the Commission not to proceed with its plans for a link tax. Throughout the process, the Save the Link platform was used to engage with a global community of concerned citizens working to safeguard their right to link.
Internet users across the EU and the globe are speaking out to Save the Link at https://SaveTheLink.org/eu
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.
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 approved legislation that will force websites to remove search results about a specific person, at that person’s request.
Ruth Coustick-Deal (London, UK)
Digital Rights Specialist, OpenMedia
+44 7854 341 550
Communications Manager, OpenMedia
+1 888 441-2640 ext. 1
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