United States International

Internet users set to flood public consultation to push back against proposals that would censor free speech and shut down Right to Link

November 17, 2015 – Civil society and digital rights groups are sounding the alarm about a public consultation run by the European Commission on the role of online platforms, the result of which could be new copyright rules that would effectively shut down people’s right to freely link online. The 75,000-strong Save The Link network has created an Internet Voice Tool to send feedback to the Commission as part of their consultation. A recently leaked draft communication on copyright reform reveals that the European Commission is considering copyrighting the act of linking to content freely available elsewhere online. Earlier this year, the European Parliament firmly rejected a proposal that could have resulted in a new EU-wide ‘Link Tax’, and this leaked document appears to be an attempt to raise the issue once more.

November 17, 2015Civil society and digital rights groups are sounding the alarm about a public consultation run by the European Commission on the role of online platforms, the result of which could be new copyright rules that would effectively shut down people’s right to freely link online. The 75,000-strong Save The Link network has created an Internet Voice Tool to send feedback to the Commission as part of their consultation.

A recently leaked draft communication on copyright reform reveals that the European Commission is considering copyrighting the act of linking to content freely available elsewhere online. Earlier this year, the European Parliament firmly rejected a proposal that could have resulted in a new EU-wide ‘Link Tax’, and this leaked document appears to be an attempt to raise the issue once more.

“If these proposals proceed unchanged, it would effectively change the Internet beyond all recognition,” said Meghan Sali, digital rights specialist for OpenMedia. “Without links to lead us around the Web, the content we want to see would be locked away. Even giant websites like Facebook and Twitter may end up censoring content if they think they’ll be liable for everything their users link to. That’s why it’s crucial for users across the globe to speak directly to the Commission and tell them to reject this reckless plan.”

Experts are warning of the consequences for free speech if the Commission’s plan gets the green light:

  • Jim Killock, Executive Director of Open Rights Group said: "We all use links everyday to find information, share news, join movements and give opinions.  If you threaten links, you threaten the web, and restrict our ability to fully engage in the digital world."

  • Dr Till Kreutzer, Founder of the Initiative against an ancillary copyright for press publishers (IGEL), said: "Copyright on links would kill the Internet."

  • Julia Reda, MEP and European Parliament Copyright Rapporteur, warns that the “European Commission is planning a frontal attack on the hyperlink, the basic building block of the Internet as we know it.”

  • Alek Tarkowski, president of the COMMUNIA Association for the public domain, warned that “considerations to make links copyrightable are dangerous, as this can break fundamental architectural underpinnings of the internet as we know it”.

  • Timothy Vollmer, Public Policy Manager at Creative Commons said, "Julia Reda's copyright report and vote in the Parliament highlights the sentiments of millions of Internet users calling for the right to link. From an economic perspective, the attempt to place restrictions on linking already has been proven ineffective in Spain and Germany. Any future attempt would continue to harm innovation and freedom of expression."

Internet users can make their voices heard at SaveTheLink.org/YourVoice

 

About OpenMedia

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.

 

Background

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.

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.

-30-

 

Contact

David Christopher,

Communications Manager, OpenMedia

+1 (888) 441-2640 ext. 1

[email protected]

 

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.

Learn More