May 17, 2017
Save the Link heroes
Copyright over-reach already negatively impacts us our lives and our speech (see a tractor company destroying concept of ownership; a man who can’t rebuild his burnt home; a copyright collecting agency spending their money on more power not giving it to authors… it goes on).
So we were extremely concerned when the European Commission came up with a plan to extend copyright powers over even more parts of our lives.
They proposed two disastrous changes that would have a massive impact on how the web functions:
1. In Article 11, they were harming the core function of the web by expanding copyright to cover the snippets of text that come with links, aka the link tax.
2. In Article 13, we got a demand that online technology companies produce automated content filtering robots to censor content before it is posted if it contains anything “identified by rightsholders”. These are super vague rules that put all the power into the hands of big publishers. But the law left the unelected Commission, and became the responsibility of your elected representatives, the Members of the European Parliament.
Since then our community has been putting pressure on them through our ‘write to your MEP tool’ and asking them to delete these two Articles from the law.
And how! MEPs really heard you! You emailed your MEPs in the thousands, and in return they put through hundreds and hundreds of amendments to change the law for the better.
We don’t want to forget that the original concept of this law was to update copyright for the modern age, and in these proposals we finally saw that!
Politico leaked the amendments to the main committee here and I’ve done the work for you of reading through and seeing what has been proposed:
The best news. Amendment 95 on JURI report has sixty nine MEPs who proposed deleting the link tax! Incredible! This was the main ask we had and check out all of these names of MEPs who listened to you:
Deleting Article 13 and content filtering: Not as many MEPs were on board with this but we still had a good number who wanted to get rid of it. It’s clear that there’s a lot more work to be done on this issue.
The lead rapporteur, Therese Comodini Cachia, didn’t go as far as we’d like in completely deleting Articles 11 & 13 - but she did make significant changes to these proposals that get rid of the worst parts and are a step in the right direction.
Some MEPs actually added in good stuff - like a User Generated Content exception, which is badly needed. Nessa Childers MEP and others put forward the plan to allow you to use copyrighted content in order to make something brand new with it. It would “ apply primarily when it serves criticism, illustration, parody, etc” (Communia) - kind of like America’s fair use.
Dita Charanazova, Julia Reda & Marietje Schaake proposed adding Freedom of Panorama - an exception to copyright that would allow everyone to take photos of sculptures and buildings. It’s a weird restriction that exists in some EU countries that, for instance, makes it illegal to take photos of the Eiffel Tower at night, and thousands of people already petitioned the EU for these powers.
Julia Reda proposed hundreds of amendments defending libraries, museums, users and public institutions. She also suggested changes absolutely spelling out once and for all that links themselves should be free to use. We’ve said it before, but she is an absolute hero for digital rights and has really gone the extra mile in this law.
Due to several judgements in various top European courts the legal status of hyperlinks is already quite ambiguous. Thankfully there’s a huge number of MEPs who have stepped up to change that through this law. They proposed making it absolutely clear that hyperlinks themselves cannot be copyrighted.
The core group of ‘Save the Link’ MEPs are worth a special mention here. This cross-party, pan-country group have worked together to persuade their fellow MEPs to stand up for the principles of the open web and their names show up many times proposing changes such as allowing teachers to use illustrations, the introduction of rules for preservation and dissemination of cultural heritage, and defense of the right to link.
Remember that not every MEP is even paying attention to this issue in the first place, so these are amazing results! It’s important to recognise what these MEPs have done. Sadly, it’s often politically difficult to actually listen to constituents, rather than industry voices who are in parliament every day to present their views. Politicians are so often told that they need to step in line with big business for the sake of economy and industry - regardless of how it might crush smaller businesses and every-day internet users.
We don’t always get to celebrate politicians, so it’s wonderful to see that there are those who are really trying to do what is right by their constituents and the public.
Of course there are still MEPs who are actually suggesting that the original law did not go far enough in giving large media corps more powers and copyright. That’s why this campaign is not over yet.
This is the final list of MEPs who put forward plans to delete the link tax. It’s a long list, but we believe it deserves to be published in full.
Anneleen van Bossuyt
Cora van Nieuwenhuizen
Fabio De Masi
Jan Philip Albrecht
Luke Ming Flanagan
Mattijs Van Miltenburg
Molly Scott Cato
Sophia in 't Veld
May 24, 2017
May 11, 2017