French Politicians Want To Create Ancillary Copyright In Thumbnail Images

from the make-your-views-known dept

Despite the fact that copyright has been repeatedly extended and strengthened over the years, the thought never seems to cross publishers’ minds that they could ever have too much of it, or that the public might have some countervailing rights here. As a consequence of this insatiable appetite, there have been a number of recent moves to create an ancillary copyright, also known as a “snippet tax,” “link tax” and “Google tax,” since it aims to make it obligatory to pay for making even short excerpts or linking to copyright material — for example, in search results. Rather amazingly, publishers are still pushing for this new monopoly “right” despite abundant evidence from their own research that it harms their businesses.

Undeterred by these facts, some politicians in France are pushing for the creation of yet another kind of ancillary copyright, covering thumbnail images. That idea was squashed a long time ago in the US, but as the public domain advocacy group Comunia explains, in France, the following is still a real possibility:

A new right that would require search engines and indexing services to pay royalties for the use of thumbnail images of copyright protected works. According to French proposal, which has been approved by the French Senate, this new right would be managed by one or more collecting societies, regardless of the intention of the rightholders whether to be financially compensated for the use of their works by search engines.

In an open letter to the French Minister of Culture (pdf) Comunia explains why this is a really stupid idea:

Its scope will impact many online services and mobile apps, from search engines to creative commons models and [the online cultural collection] Europeana. Money would be collected arbitrarily and without any realistic way of redistributing it accurately. Basic, every day activities of online users, such as posting, linking, embedding photos online, would be subject to a cloud of legal uncertainty.

It would isolate France in the European Union, at a time when courts across Europe have made clear these were lawful activities under national, European and international laws. It would isolate France globally, as a country where using images online would be subject to restrictive and unworkable practice.

Unfortunately, France isn’t the only part of Europe that is considering the introduction of ancillary copyright. This week, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the idea of giving publishers what it calls “neighbouring rights” — in other words, ancillary copyright:

[The European Commission] is seeking views on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain, including the possible extension to publishers of the neighbouring rights. Publishers do not currently benefit from neighbouring rights which are similar to copyright but do not reward an authors’ original creation (a work). They reward either the performance of a work (e.g. by a musician, a singer, an actor) or an organisational or financial effort (for example by a producer) which may also include a participation in the creative process.

The European Commission paints European publishers as somehow missing out on the ancillary copyright currently enjoyed by those in the music or theatre worlds. The intention is clearly to suggest that this kind of extra right is perfectly normal, and that it should — of course — be granted to those poor, struggling publishers, who barely have any copyright at all, apparently. However, that framing rather skates over the fact that posting an article on a website is hardly a creative act on a par with performing a song, or appearing in a play. So it’s not entirely clear why the European Commission thinks it deserves an extra layer of legal protection on top of standard copyright — other than the fact that publishers want that new monopoly in the hope of extracting money from Google.

Fortunately, the consultation is open to everyone, including those outside the EU, which means Techdirt readers everywhere can make their views known using the online questionnaire. As a bonus, you can also give your views on the so-called “panorama exception” — another area where lobbyists are working hard to make copyright even less fit for the digital age than it is now.

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Comments on “French Politicians Want To Create Ancillary Copyright In Thumbnail Images”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

... forty-third time's the charm?

According to French proposal, which has been approved by the French Senate, this new right would be managed by one or more collecting societies, regardless of the intention of the rightholders whether to be financially compensated for the use of their works by search engines.

Now where have I seen that logic employed before… ah yes, that would be when Spain introduced a law making it mandatory to charge for displayed snippets, with no ability for sites to opt out of charging since it was an ‘inalienable right’ under the law that they(well to be more accurate collection agencies) be paid, like it or not.

Anyone remember how well that worked out for them?

Anyone at all?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

They can’t even be bothered to keep track of who owns what copyrights, so lets create an even bigger thicket of bullshit to wade through.

Gee a ‘rights group’ who will collect all of the money and then maybe just maybe send a few cents to the rightsholders they manage to identify while sitting on the growing pile of cash laughing.

Perhaps it would be a good time to talk with actual people who don’t have a vested self interest in expanding power to make more cash, and work on fixing the huge fustercluck copyright has become. Using evidence to make decisions, rather than just giving into loud dying industries who don’t want to compete and ignore the benefits they are getting for free in the deal.

To listen to the media we are in a constant global state of war against the terrorists, and yet these assholes have time to try and create new way to try and make copyright more screwed up rather than doing things that could improve the world.

Capt ICE Enforcer says:


I’m sorry, but why is Copyright more powerful than everything else on the planet. This is just retarded. Oh I made something once, please everyone on the planet pay me forever. If you don’t want your stuff used by others, then keep it locked up in your closet or garage. Otherwise, sharing is caring.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why stop there?

Retail stores should pay for the privilege of allowing potential customers preview the art they might purchase!

Oh, oh, and homebuilders should pay to review different blueprints before picking one!

The Google street view cars need to pay me a zillion dollars for taking pictures of MY house!

Yesterday I took a picture of a cloud that looks like a cotton ball. Anyone else who takes pictures of cotton ball looking clouds needs to pay me for coming up with the idea!

It’s also not fair that some artists are starving, successful artists need to share their money with the starving artists who first painted similar ideas.

Lastly I think everyone should pay me money because I’m awesome and have lots of good ideas that others have ripped off! This world is soon unfair!

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Why stop there?

That. The best way to make copyright better is to finish breaking it by actually implementing everything the maximalists want with very draconian punishments. Time Warner got caught infringing? Decapitate their CEO and other executives!

Let’s see how long it takes for these same people to say “o crap, this needs to be stopped”. Apply stupid laws to their letter and you’ll see such laws being killed off very quickly.

Anonymous Coward says:

This sort of proposal has nothing to do with benefiting creators, but rather as yet another tool for traditional publishers, (those who demand copyright assignment for their services), to regain total control over the work of creative people. Such publishers hate the search engines, not because they use thumbnails of works they have gained control over, but because they allow creative people to sell direct to their audience, why else would they make it a mandatory fee, except to try and damage services like search engines. These publishers see self publishing as a threat to their business, and while the cannot directly attack self publishers, they can try to damage the ancillary services the self publishers rely on, and search engines are the prime service that allows self publishing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Sounds like it is time for all Search Engines and such to pull out of France and possibly Europe. That may make them smarten up, but I know google and the likes will just bow down to them and do what they are told to do. They all have too much money.

If this world could get rid of Money we would all be better off. This crap only happens Cause of Greed. Money is the root of all evil.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Sounds like it is time for all Search Engines and such to pull out of France and possibly Europe.

Not a chance, but probably image search would be disabled there if this goes through. Then they would have to go through this whole rigamarole again about whether Google has to block something in the whole world, or just on Has that question been resolved yet?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If this world could get rid of Money we would all be better off. This crap only happens Cause of Greed.

1. What would you do, go to the barter system? What do I have that the grocery store would want in exchange for food? Will I have to negotiate my paycheck every month with my employer? What if he doesn’t currently have anything I need?

2. Why would eliminating money eliminate greed?

any moose cow word says:

I thought it was ridiculous when music “sampling”, using a tiny clip of a song within another composition, suddenly required a license fee while no other copyrighted works had any such requirement. Articles could quote longer works, search engines could use snippets and thumbnails, etc. Sure enough, the copyright moguls are at it again, trying to concoct money grabbing schemes and make them apply to everything else. Give the roaches an inch and they take over the entire world!

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