Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda: EU Preparing 'Frontal Attack On The Hyperlink'
from the propping-up-publishing-dinosaurs dept
Back in January of this year, we wrote about a remarkable report proposing a number of major changes to EU copyright law. Part of an extremely long-drawn out process that aims to update the current 2001 copyright directive, the document was written by the sole Pirate Party MEP in the European Parliament, Julia Reda. In the short time she’s been an MEP — she was only elected in 2014 — she’s emerged as the European Parliament’s leading expert on copyright, which means it’s always worth taking her warnings in this area very seriously. Earlier this year, Techdirt noted that Reda was worried about moves to restrict outdoor photography in the EU. Now she’s picked up something even more disturbing after studying a draft version of the European Commission’s imminent communication on copyright reform, which was leaked to the IPKat blog. According to her interpretation of this document:
the Commission is considering putting the simple act of linking to content under copyright protection. This idea flies in the face of both existing interpretation and spirit of the law as well as common sense. Each weblink would become a legal landmine and would allow press publishers to hold every single actor on the Internet liable.
the Commission bemoans a lack of clarity about which actions on the Internet need a permission and which ones do not: in legal terms, they put forward the question when something is an ‘act of communication to the public’.
This is a reference to a ruling of the European Court of Justice in the Svensson case. While on one hand the judges established that the simple act of linking to publicly available content is no copyright infringement, because it does not reach a new public, a few questions were left open by this ruling, however: For example when exactly content can be seen as accessible by the public and how e.g. links surpassing paywalls are to be treated.
What worries Reda is that the European Commission may try to introduce ancillary copyright — aka a “Google tax” — in the EU under the guise of “clearing up” the questions left unanswered by the Svensson case. As she notes, and Techdirt has tracked for some time, every attempt to bring in ancillary copyright in Europe has been an abysmal failure. Bringing in an EU-wide Google tax in a misguided attempt to prop up publishers that still haven’t figured out how to work with, rather than against, the Internet, would be disastrous. Maybe Reda is reading more into the leaked document than is warranted, but it’s certainly worth being alert to this possibility when the European Commission releases its official version of the document on 9 December, and making it quite clear before then that the idea is a complete non-starter.