French Politicians Pushing To Ban Linking To Any Website Without Permission

from the you-fail-at-the-internet dept

Apparently two French Parliament Members are on a mission to ban linking to websites, unless you first have permission. In short, they’re looking to undermine one of the key features of the internet itself.

The idea was proposed but rejected by the Legislative Commission, but it is brought back again. Socialist Karine Berger and Valérie Rabault once again tabled their Amendment #843 to Axelle Lemaire?s Bill for a Digital Republic, which would actually prohibit by default a large quantity of hyperlinks in France.

This device aims at amending the Law for Confidence in the Digital Economy and hold ISP and hosts criminally responsible as soon as they ?allow public access to works or objects protected by the copyright code, including through automated means.?

The amendment states ?users are required to obtain authorization from concerned rights holders?. The two MPs demand that ?such authorization covers actions by users of such services when transmitting to the said users the protected works or objects, in order to allow use as stated in the fist paragraph inasmuch as such users are not acting on professional purposes?.

Now, it’s fairly obvious that you’re dealing with two politicians who think they’re somehow proposing a solution to “piracy” on the internet. But it’s really yet another attempt at punishing Google. Similar to efforts in Germany, Spain and even the European Parliament, very, very shortsighted Google haters think that a way to “punish” Google is to make it pay money to sites that it links to (mainly when it comes to news aggregation). The two French politicians admit flat out that they’re trying to help copyright maximalists:

The amendment is intended to ?protect the creation of authors and define the scope of their rights on hyperlinks?, according to the two MPS? rationale. ?The amendment aims at reinstating protection on these hyperlinks, in favour of the authors and rights holders of the links? target content.?

But linking isn’t and should never be infringement. It’s a reference and it takes you to the original content, which is beneficial. And yet, of course, it all comes back to politicians thinking that just because Google is successful while linking to others’ content, Google must be somehow bad.

?Just look at Google?s referencing procedures: they are based on hyperlinks, and links that lead to copyright-protected works on their publishing site are precisely what allows Google to create any added value whatsoever?, said MP Karine Berger in her plea for the amendment.

?In other words, some commercial Internet operators benefit from the value of some copyright-protected cultural goods and services without ever paying for using them. The amendment, by raising the question as to whom is responsible for collecting value through hyperlinks, aims at overturning jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It is a paramount legal and economic issue.?

Yes, Google creates value for itself in linking to websites. It also creates value for users. And for the websites it links to. That’s why there’s a massive search engine optimization business in which sites purposely try to get ranked better on Google, because sites that are linked from Google get tremendous benefit out of it.

I have a hard time understanding any kind of logic wherein you have a setup in which everyone basically benefits… and a politician still wants to come in and complain because one of the parties in the setup is doing well.

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Comments on “French Politicians Pushing To Ban Linking To Any Website Without Permission”

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76 Comments
TheResidentSkeptic says:

Nuke 'em

1) All search engines should immediately de-list all *.fr links from all results globally.
2) All search engines should detect french users, and for all search queries return a screen “no linking allowed in your country.”

History shows that the French population is pretty good at revolutions – it may be time for another one.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Nuke 'em

Tim Berners-Lee is going to be rolling on the floor laughing his ass off when he hears about this, considering he was working on the border between France and Switzerland when he invented the web. Invented (partially) in France, and now French politicians are trying their damnedest to destroy it while ostensibly trying to “monetize” it.

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

klaus says:

Re: Nuke 'em

“History shows that the French population is pretty good at revolutions – it may be time for another one.”

Despite their unjust and undeserved “Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey” tag, the French are notorious for not putting up with any kind of crap from their governments. So I find the last few years very perplexing…

Take bread, sacred to the French, but even they’ve been succumbing to the evil British Chorleywood menace. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13670278

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Nuke 'em

History shows that the French population is pretty good at revolutions – it may be time for another one.

History shows the French population is horrible at revolutions. They don’t call the aftermath of the last one “The Reign of Terror” for nothing; it was one of the darkest points in the country’s history.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Nuke 'em

To my mind the French in Haiti and Indochina, and perhaps also their treatment of their other colonies such as Algeria and Morocco was far darker.

If you take the time to read the historical accounts of that era, pretty much all of those colonial powers at the time were every bit as despicable as all the rest. Even otherwise nice and benign Holland acted atrociously.

I’m glad enough managed to survive it. Just imagine the kind of mindset that can bring itself to believe that Native Americans were little better than vermin. Eww …

Vidiot (profile) says:

“… benefit from the value of some copyright-protected cultural goods and services without ever paying for using them…”

“Copyright-protected” – that would be, ummm, the entire website, right? I’ve benefited from visiting websites “without ever paying for using them”, so I guess I’m guilty as charged. Stick my fiber connection into the guillotine, Madame!

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I look forward to a day when Google finally gets pissed off enough to drop a country from the index.
Replace all results with we’d show you stuff but they insist we pay for making it easier for you to find things. They don’t want you to see their content, so we’ve respected their wishes.

How long until the public screams loud enough to be heard over the corporations who keep demanding more and more special rights even when they are nonsensical.

It can be the ultimate right to be forgotten, your government is this hostile so we’ve forgotten you all exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

I have a hard time understanding any kind of logic wherein you have a setup in which everyone basically benefits… and a politician still wants to come in and complain because one of the parties in the setup is doing well.

Google must not be sharing their profits with the politicians, and so they need to be made to transfer their profits to a company that will share.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is a wrong statement: it’s not copyright law that forbids taking photos of Mona Lisa. It’s the museum’s rules. That’s not law, and the excuse is not copyright but “the flash will damage the painting”. Of course that’s not the real reason (which is selling expensive – but licensed – photos from the souvenir shop), but there is no copyright enforcement at play here.

beltorak (profile) says:

Part of me desperately wants to educate these clueless politicians enough so they understand that a hyperlink is nothing more than the name of a webpage. That would make this law like enforcing “copyright protection” against people talking about movies, songs, books, etc etc.

But then I recoil in horror to think they might try to build this backwards philosophy predicated on publicity rights….

Anonymous Coward says:

*sigh* It's all Napoleon's fault.

By getting a lot of France’s best and brightest killed, he reduced the French IQ. That made them stupid enough to start World War I, which got even more of their reduced population of smart people reduced further. The process appears to have become self-sustaining to the point where the French will become known as “Epsilons.”

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: *sigh* It's all Napoleon's fault.

Wait, what?

WWI was started by Serbia and Austria-Hungary being unable to find a peaceful resolution to a political crisis precipitated by an assassination of an Austrian nobleman by a Yugoslav nationalist. How does France have anything to do with that?

Also, how does France (later) sending tons of soldiers to the killing fields reduce their population of smart people, when the best and brightest disproportionately tend to find ways to avoid serving on the front lines?

Nothing you just wrote up there makes any sense.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: *sigh* It's all Napoleon's fault.

I’ll agree with your first point, to a point. I’d put the blame on the politicians who sewed them all up into that ridiculous cascading treaty obligations crap. Why a Yugoslav assassinating an Austrian in Sarajevo should lead to hundreds of thousands of Canadians dying in French trench warfare at Ypres never made a lick of sense to me. Also note they learned nothing from it as Germany invading Poland was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back and dragged France and Britain into declaring war on Germany in WWII.

Also, how does France (later) sending tons of soldiers to the killing fields reduce their population of smart people, when the best and brightest disproportionately tend to find ways to avoid serving on the front lines?

That only makes sense if you equate “best and brightest” with “rich.” I don’t. You don’t need to be very smart to inherit a fortune. You just need to have the right parents.

Even in the US’ Civil War, the rich could pay some poor bugger to serve for them.

Anonymous Coward says:

and if passed, this would lead to exactly what i said would happen, months ago, the Internet being run by Hollywood and the entertainment industries! what needs to happen first is find out who is receiving back handers from those industries? sarkosy was on the side of the industries, because his ‘wife’ was a member and it kept the two of them together when wandering!
a minister in Japan has just resigned over bribery charges to do with TPP, those involved in this need checking! the internet is the best distribution medium invented so far. obviously the movie industry wants it, but just for their own use! why else would they keep trying to get more harsh sentences for file distribution? why else would they keep plying Congress and the courts with contributions?
can you imagine an internet that is run by an industry that relies on ‘make believe’ to earn money? no one and nothing would be allowed to use it unless paying the industries.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

a minister in Japan has just resigned over bribery charges to do with TPP …

No, the bribery had to do with a construction company, not TPP. It was just a coincidence that he was the guy handling TPP for Japan. Or, maybe to handle TPP, you need to be corrupt so obviously give the job to him.

why else would they keep trying to get more harsh sentences for file distribution?

My theory is they’re very stupid in important areas and completely divorced from reality. How can it make any sense to blow a fortune on lawyers to win a judgement nobody in his right mind would expect would ever be paid?

Anonymous Coward says:

There's two sides to this coin

Obtaining “authorization from concerned rights holders” is virtually impossible, given the current morass of opacity and often contradictory information on who exactly controls rights to “intellectual property”.

If lawmakers would require rights holders to register their proven claims into a global database, with a single contact, and with the caveat that any IP not registered (or inquiries not responded to within a reasonable time frame) be considered public domain, then there might be something to talk about.

JBDragon says:

Re: Talk about the web going dark...

I remember early back in the day having a large book full of web sites. This is before even Yahoo. Before search engines as we know it now. Talking about really going backwards.

When all you have to do is put a Robot.txt file at your web site to be complete ignored by Google and others. They of course seem to want it both ways. If France wants to go back to the middle ages let them.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Talk about the web going dark...

We will be back to the old days of trying to guess URLs and hoping you didn’t land on a porn site.

URLs? More like going back to the days before some smart cookie (Paul Mockapetris; I’m surprised I’ve never heard of him) invented DNS. Imagine the typical Twitter or Facebook addict trying to deal with dotted quads.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Talk about the web going dark...

Why would banning links make DNS stop working?

I’m not sure I understand the question, but would you rather got to 104.25.104.28 or techdirt.com? They’re the same thing of course, but one’s in a much more human manageable form, obviously.

I think the point I’m trying to make is they wouldn’t stop working, but they would become unusable for most people. The typical non-geek has likely never even heard the term “dotted quad.”

I’m not sure either where you got “DNS stop working” from what I wrote. I meant it to mean a time before DNS was invented (didn’t yet exist), and things like “techdirt.com” wasn’t possible even if 104.25.104.28 was.

I hope I didn’t completely screw the pooch on that. Sorry for the misunderstanding if so. It was a fairly busy long weekend (well, for me anyway), and I may be suffering from creeping senility, ya never know. 🙂

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Talk about the web going dark...

This story is about banning links without authorization, and then you’re talking about going back to typing in IP addresses rather than domain names. I don’t see the connection. If Google and others were not allowed to link to Techdirt without permission, the domain http://www.techdirt.com would still work fine.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Talk about the web going dark...

Talk about the web going dark! We will be back to the old days of trying to guess URLs and hoping you didn’t land on a porn site.

Remember, that’s what I was replying to.

I get what you’re saying about what the story’s about, but there’s more than one thread going on here. I was just commenting on what they said/wrote. If silly French politicos want to tell us what we can do with URLs, they’re really telling us all we can actually rely on is dotted quads, as in pre-DNS.

Yeah, these nitwit clueless French politicos want to break the web if they can’t get the vig for their masters, but they’re (obviously) not seeing the whole picture. Human readable links == DNS. If they’re objecting to human readable links or what we do with them, I interpret that to mean going back to before the days DNS existed, leaving us with dotted quads, not human usable URLs. I could handle that, but my late mother wouldn’t have been able to.

I think it would be very helpful for all of us to assume the average politician is just an idiot savant. They only know enough to be dangerous to others or themselves.

I hope that’s clearer. Or, maybe I should concede defeat. You may have the high ground, I don’t know. No biggie.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Talk about the web going dark...

Agreed, no biggie. 🙂 With that said…

If silly French politicos want to tell us what we can do with URLs, they’re really telling us all we can actually rely on is dotted quads, as in pre-DNS.

It seems like you’re jumping too far. Nothing in this law (if I understand it right) would prevent me from typing a domain name into my browser, therefore there would be no need to fall back to IP addresses. There’s a difference between a link and a domain name.

Anonymous Coward says:

Socialismo!

Remarkably, it’s a socialist standing up for private property rights here. But not just any property rights. If these newfangled socialists were to get their way, and prevent Google and other search engines as well blogs, Reddit, etc. from linking to any copyrighted material without permission, it would take us back to the era when big media controlled most of the information that people consume (get your daily newspaper, not your free feed), allowing big media to make a comeback by buying up the work of content-creators cheaply and selling it at a huge markup. If you don’t think this is what would happen, just look at the academic journal biz where a couple of big companies pay virtually nothing for content then resell it for ridiculously high prices, since you can’t get the scholarly articles otherwise.
This is 21st century socialism: that is, socialism for the rich, who probably are the leading contributors to the socialist cause!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Socialismo!

just look at the academic journal biz where a couple of big companies pay virtually nothing for content then resell it for ridiculously high prices,

Virtually nothing??
At best the academics do all the editing work and peer review work without pay, and get published for free, and at worse they also have to pay page charges to get published.

Anonymous Coward says:

You’ll have the French ISPs screaming along with the populace if this passes. It won’t just be the search engines that bar .fr but most every website that doesn’t create their own content. If you offer to sell something and provide a photo, chances are very good it isn’t your photo. Just because you use the corporation’s promo photo doesn’t give you permission; for sales of their goods it’s implied but not specifically granted.

As soon as the French learn the internet has collapsed in on itself, some will buy VPNs and others will throw up their hands in discuss and terminate their internet accounts. Any site that allows discussion and doesn’t expressly forbid urls will be liable to so good bye to sites such as this one or a forum of any nature.

Yet maybe this is a good thing when everyone starts blocking .fr in the firewalls. I would think it would drive the exact opposite into being of hyperlinks in and of themselves are not infringing and contain no infringing material. They are merely locator notations.

Wyrm (profile) says:

Funny things there…

First, one of the supporters of the bill tried to bs her way out by stating that she’s not trying to “prohibit” anything, but to create “permission” to link to sites.
That’s such an obvious lie that it reminds me of the comparison with data caps in US: being “friendly” is not helping someone back on his feet… after you first punched him to the ground.

Second, Berger doesn’t even seem to listen to herself speak… “and links that lead to copyright-protected works on their publishing site are precisely what allows Google to create any added value whatsoever”. Yes, Google creates value. That’s the whole point: Google creates value for the public, the original site owner… and Google himself. What’s the problem there?

Third, there is already a way to authorize or deny permission to Google. It’s called robots.txt. Funny enough, most sites already explicitly allow Google. And most other implicitly do the same. What need is there for a law as long as most respectable crawlers respect the instructions there?

Finally, most people used to pay to get advertisement. And most sites are currently paying to optimize their SEO. Being on Google is valuable, and everyone should be glad that Google is doing it (mostly) for free. Funny how some country don’t understand the basics of economy here.

Not that Google doesn’t have some abusive behaviors, but that is definitely not something I’d bother criticizing them about.

John85851 (profile) says:

Keep going

I say to keep going with this thinking.
Let’s go into the library and rip out the card catalog system because that’s obviously pointing people to books without the book owner’s permission.

If this is an absurd comparison, then have the politicians explain the real difference between Google and a card catalog? Oh, right, one is done “on a computer”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not all linking is equal

Specifically, there is a difference between

1) using an html link in the text of your web page, linking to someone else’s content.

and

2) using an html link in (eg) an image tag, effectively using content hosted on someone else’s system as your own.

Entirely different things. Don’t mix them up.

Now, discuss. Could the proposed law be reworded to include case 2 without including case 1? Would such a law still be objected to?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Not all linking is equal

“Now, discuss.”

OK.

There is no ethical difference between the two. A link is just a pointer to a parcel of data somewhere else. There is no more of a moral or ethical issue to linking to anything anywhere than there is to pointing to a physical place and saying “it’s over there”.

From the point of view of a site operator, there are simple mechanisms that prevent the sort of deep linking that you’re talking about (inline images, etc.) If this is a big deal for a site, they can stop it easily already with existing tools. I do exactly this on my own websites to prevent anyone from inlining images, so that I’m not paying for bandwidth that is really being used by a different site.

Wendy Cockcroft says:

This is the “Everything must be owned” mindset that we saw at work in the comments of the PETA defeat story thread. This is why I say till I’m blue in the face, “Copyright is emphatically NOT property. It’s a temporary monopoly privilege.”

The trouble with using the language of scarcity (“consuming content”) and ownership (“protection, rights”) is that it cedes the narrative to the maximalists and puts us on the back foot. Ownership presupposes the right to control the owned item. The trouble with letting the maximalists frame their arguments in terms of property ownership is that they won’t give ground on anything, however gracious we ourselves are.

Techdirt does an awesome job of pointing out that this is bunk and that other business models exist. Let’s push harder to expose the lie: copyright is NOT property. Belief that it is fuels the rationale behind this nonsense over linking so we need to kick it down.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well said, but …

Let’s push harder to expose the lie: copyright is NOT property. Belief that it is fuels the rationale behind this nonsense over linking so we need to kick it down.

The problem is money. We can scream until we’re blue in the face educating the Universe as to what’s right and wrong, but while they still have the money to buy politicians and we keep electing bribable politicians, they’ll keep on winning.

About all we can do about it is try to make a boycott work, and seldom do they. Your typical twenty-something millenial hates it when all their friends are talking about something they haven’t yet seen themselves, spoiling the sweet surprise ending for them. Somebody here only a few days ago used “Spoiler Alert” before they started mentioning Gattaca. What is that, ten, fifteen years old? I found out over the weekend that one of my friends had never heard of it. I was shocked.

Sigh. 😛

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

They want to break the internet. They want to break people’s ability to communicate, learn, organize and protest.

It’s just entropy in action leading to the heat death of the Universe. They’re just goin’ with the flow, or the natural order of things. No, there will not be a Big Crunch and everything starts over. It’ll all just keep on evaporating away and getting colder until universal equilibrium is reached at zero degrees Kelvin and everything stops.

On the bright side, it’ll be a long time by human reckoning before it gets there. We’ll be long extinct well before that, so not our problem.

Enjoy every sunrise you get! 🙂 Have fun.

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