International Access

IMCO Committee recommends EU Parliament reject plans for Link Tax, warns content filtering harms interests of Internet users

Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market recommends that Commission plans for a Link Tax (Article 11) be completely removed from draft legislation

February 24, 2017 A key European Parliament Committee is recommending that controversial EU Commission proposals for a “Link Tax” (Article 11) be completely removed from draft legislation. The committee also warns that Commission plans for mandatory content filtering (Article 13) harms the interests of Internet users. The news comes on the heels of an open letter from leading copyright experts calling for the removal of these two provisions.

In a draft opinion published today, Catherine Stihler MEP, rapporteur of parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), stated that the introduction of a “press publishers’ right” (aka the Link Tax) was “unnecessary as publishers are already protected by copyright law”. The intervention is highly significant, as Stihler’s committee is one of just two that are responsible for studying the Commission’s plans and reporting back to MEPs.

Digital rights advocates at OpenMedia, which has organized a 125,000-strong Save The Link campaign against the Commission’s Link Tax and content filtering plans, have hailed Stihler’s intervention.

“This is an important and positive intervention that will hold a lot of weight with MEPs from all parties in the European Parliament,” said OpenMedia’s communications specialist Meghan Sali.  “The Commission’s extreme proposals would burden EU citizens with some of the worst copyright rules in the world — rules that would dramatically curtail citizens’ right to share and access content online.”

Sali continued: ‘Instead of respecting public opinion, the Commission chose to ignore the tens of thousands of European Internet users who urged them not to proceed. But today, it looks like key MEPs are listening, which is a very positive sign. The sooner parliament kills off this bad idea the better — it’s time to move on, and focus on developing balanced copyright rules that respect creators and encourage free expression.”

The Commission’s plans for a new Link Tax would grant sweeping new powers to publishing giants to charge fees when snippets of text are used in hyperlinks. The plans sparked controversy and widespread media coverage, when they were first unveiled last September, and recent media reports in Politico suggest the proposals have “hit the rocks” with MEPs.

Prior to being proposed at the EU level, the Link Tax was attempted in Spain with poor results for publishers. In the past week, two key Spanish Internet users’ associations have presented a complaint to the Commission based on how the Spanish law damages competition and serves as a form of illegal state aid.

Key criticisms of the Commission’s proposals include:

  • Ancillary copyright (AKA the link tax) is a policy that failed in both Germany and Spain where it was previously implemented – doing damage to small European publishers and creating huge legal uncertainty

  • Experts say additional liabilities for intermediaries are in contravention of Safe Harbour provisions in Article 14 and 15 of the Infosoc Directive

  • Monitoring and filtering systems are extremely costly and would pose significant challenges to non-profit organisations like Wikimedia and the Internet Archive who exist to make information available to the public

  • This is a disastrous move towards automated systems to regulate content: algorithms are unable to account for legal and legitimate uses of content such as parody, and many other fair dealing copyright exceptions.

Citizens across the EU and the world are speaking out against these proposals at SaveTheLink.org

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.

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