France Passes Copyright Law Demanding Royalties For Every Image Search Engines Index Online

from the that'll-work-out-just-fine dept

The Disruptive Competition Project is detailing yet another bad copyright law change in Europe — France, in particular, this time. Called the Freedom of Creation Act, it actually passed a few months ago, but people are just beginning to understand and comprehend the full horror of what’s happening. Basically, it will now require any site that indexes images on the internet (i.e., any image search engine) to pay royalties for each image to a collection society.

How would this work? When an image is published online, the reproduction right and the right of communication to the public of this image shall be transferred to one or more collecting societies appointed by the French government. Online communication services ?reproducing and communicating to the public images for search and indexing purposes? shall have to obtain a license from those collecting societies to index images legally. The license fee will either be based on the revenue accruing from the exploitation of the service or be a lump sum fee.

Of course, this makes no sense. In the US, thankfully, multiple cases on things like Google Images have found that indexing the images and showing thumbnails is clearly fair use. But that’s not how it’s going to work in France.

This seems particularly pointless on any number of levels. First, image search engines aren’t “publishing” any works, they’re just indexing what’s already online and showing people where those images are. Second, if people creating works don’t want them indexed they can just use robots.txt. And, yes, someone else might post those images elsewhere, but that’s no reason to blame and charge a search engine. But the bigger issue, honestly, is that it’s hard to see how this sort of system actually helps content creators at all. Does anyone honestly believe that the money this collection society collects will go to the people who created the indexed images? Remember, copyright collection societies have a very long and very detailed history of abuse and corruption. They collect lots of money, but they’re not so great about paying it back out. And, as the Disruptive Competition Project points out, this is particularly problematic in this case, where both jurisdictional questions and just basic logistics make it almost impossible for the collection society to accurately distribute funds:

Moreover, the territorial scope of this measure is unclear. Are the rights of reproduction and communication to the public transferred to a collecting society when an image is published on a French website or on any website? Is the measure based on the nationality of the works? In practice, this measure may claim ownership of the billions of pictures uploaded everyday globally ? even though the huge majority of those pictures are published today for personal use by the close-to-3-billion smartphones? owners, not expecting any revenue. It is also worth noting that a sizable number of those pictures is published under a Creative Commons license that usually refuse remuneration in return, for example, for attribution. Therefore, this measure would override the choice made by users publishing under such a license ? and more generally, would deprive rightsholders of the choice between licensing their pictures or not.

Even worse, there is no realistic way for collecting societies to redistribute the revenues from the license fees accurately and fairly to billions of rightsholders all over the world. The relevant collecting societies won?t attempt to contact all French rightsholders (when close to 70% of French citizens above 15 years old have a smartphone!), let alone all global rightsholders. In practice, the money will be split between the relevant collecting societies and the few rightsholders affiliated to those societies, who ? as we say in France ? won the ?Jackpot?.

It will be worth following to see how this plays out. If France does follow through and a collection society actually goes after Google, it does make me wonder if Google might pull out the nuclear option yet again and shut down Google Images in France as it did with Google News in Spain, when the Spanish government passed a similar tax on news aggregation.

Once again, like so many of these laws, this seems to not be so much about copyright as it is about taxing Google.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “France Passes Copyright Law Demanding Royalties For Every Image Search Engines Index Online”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That One Guy (profile) says:

"It's never worked before, but this time, THIS TIME it will work for sure!"

If France does follow through and a collection society actually goes after Google, it does make me wonder if Google might pull out the nuclear option yet again and shut down Google Images in France as it did with Google News in Spain, when the Spanish government passed a similar tax on news aggregation.

‘Please go nuclear’ is not generally a phrase you would expect to see very often, but in this case if they are stupid enough to try and shake down Google for having images in their service I hope Google does the same here as they did in Spain, and responds by shutting down the service, maybe with a nice little message pointing to the french government as the cause.

Chalk it up to another case of parasites demanding money for the work of others, lying about how they’re just so very concerned about creators and want to make sure that they’re appropriately rewarded for their creations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nuclear Option

Hah! The french lawmakers have proven before that they don’t care about borders and respecting the laws of other countries. Given previous rulings, I fully expect them to insist that their laws goes for the rest of the world as well.
I also expect them to make the claim that they must pay for each different domain extension even if the images are the same.
If there are any french people here, I don’t blame you… but some of your lawmakers and politicians are seriously f’ed up.

suomynonA (user link) says:

Re: France be crazy.

“They’re also using armed officers to force women to strip on beaches.”

You say this like it’s a bad thing. They ARE selling tickets, right? Who knows; maybe they’ll even start taking pictures and making a profit. Wouldn’t THAT be funny?

“Here’s the revenue from that nude beach shot you did.” “I’m a nun and have taken a vow of poverty.” “Oh! Come on down then; you’ll fit right in.”

streetlight (profile) says:

What about viewing photo archives?

Maybe this is ridiculous, but will this law affect folks who want to view their cloud saved photo archives or those of others who have given permission to do so? Google, for instance, allows those with an account to save an unlimited number of pics on Google Drive for free if they are acceptable using their compression algorithm. If that’s the case, Google should just block access to those archives if a URL points to France. Worse case, delete the archives with a warning about what’s to happen and why.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: What the hell are they thinking?

How exactly do you imagine Google has ‘power over the internet’? They’re popular sure, but that’s because they have products and services that people like and use.

As well, how exactly do you think charging Google for displaying pictures, whether the (theoretical at this point) owners of said pictures want to be paid or not will ‘put [Google] in their place’?

If history repeats they’ll just dump the pictures, or worst case shut down the service entirely. In the first case we’ll get to enjoy listening to the whining about how it’s just so unfair that they didn’t want to pay, followed by a bunch of begging to get them to show pictures again, while the latter is likely to have that and then some with the politicians crying that Google’s refusal to pay out the nose is somehow an ‘abuse of their power’ and ‘evidence that they need to be brought under control’ or some similar rot, as though Google owes anything like that.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Protecting your rights... after we steal them from you

When an image is published online, the reproduction right and the right of communication to the public of this image shall be transferred to one or more collecting societies appointed by the French government.

I was wondering if they’d gone the ‘irrevocable right to be paid’ route that Spain did, but reading that it looks like they actually went even farther, and claim that the (theoretical) owners of the rights to the pictures are, like it or not, forced to hand over the reproduction rights to the collection agencies so that said agencies can collect the fees whether the (theoretical) owners want them to or not.

Nothing says ‘respect for the rights of creators’ quite like taking those rights away and using them to profit at the creator’s expense.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Protecting your rights... after we steal them from you

Does this apply if you released the image under a CC license?

So are you basically being forced to almost effectively hand over the copyrights to all your works to another party for them to essentially decide how much they wish to pay you for your works if they can track you down and if they even wish to pay you even if you wish to release your works under a CC license? All of your works must essentially be licensed through them, they essentially own the copyright to your works by default by law no matter what and you can’t opt out.

It’s like being forced to sign up with a record label and to accept whatever terms they decide to give you against your will and you have no say in the terms of the agreement. You must just accept whatever terms they give you, you have no right to negotiate those terms before signing. It’s essentially extortion.

It’s very obvious who lobbied for these laws, the collection societies. These laws are very obviously not intended for the artists as they pretty much force artists to almost effectively hand over their copyrights to a third party that gets to then decide what to do and what to charge to license your works and how much they want to pay you if at all. You can’t even negotiate with them, it’s not consensual, this is the actual definition of theft (or very close, unlike the wrong definition that IP extremists always like to make). That’s pretty sinister and shows whom copyright was always really meant for and it’s not the artists.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Protecting your rights... after we steal them from you

Piano teacher and composer Valentin Villenave published an opera under CC0 and it was performed by the Opéra National de Montpellier.

Some time afterwards the French RIAA equivalent contacted him for his share of the spoils and he told them that they had no right to collect money on his behalf and should give it back. By the end of the phone call they were basically accusing him of being a pirate by wanting to deny them their spoils.

I cannot find the story right now on his web site or the LilyPond user/developer list archives but I’m pretty sure I got the gist of it reasonably accurately.

So while I have to keep this at anecdotal/hearsay level for lack of digging up a reference, it does fit in with this article’s gist: there appears to be some sort of entitlement syndrome within the French collection societies that exceeds the actual authority that they are supposed to wield on behalf of the authors. And they seem to be somewhat successful pressing their narrative to the law makers.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Protecting your rights... after we steal them from you

Yeah, that sounds about right, though I am rather surprised they even tried to give him ‘his’ share in the first place.

It’s not even close to just a french ‘collection’ agency problem though, all the ‘collection’ agencies seem to think that the only way someone should be able to listen to music is if someone pays them first, so it’s not surprising that a composer that had the utter gall to claim that they shouldn’t collected money from his stuff got a hostile reception. They are owed that money after all, he should have just shut up and let them keep it if he did’t want it, not have the audacity to claim that they had no right to collect it in the first place.

freakanatcha (profile) says:

Is France a big d-bag? Qui!

If France follows through with this and Google shuts down Google Images, then how will the French police find all of my illegal photos of French police arresting women in Burkinis? I’ve already blocked them from Instagram.

Seriously, do these people have any idea of the negative effect of this on e-commerce? A big chunk of online retail would die without image search.

How does this affect sites like Esty where I own the work and I post it to specifically have it indexed. Are the French saying I cannot assign rights and set the price for my own work?

Anonymous Coward says:

Virtually wall off France

Since they seem to hate the idea of an open internet, wall them off completely and force the country to pay an indemnity or hundreds of millions of dollars, to be set aside for future retarded moves, to regain the same access that they had before they started waging war on the internet. Good luck with your own internet. Join the ranks of North Korea and enjoy your pretend pie in the sky reality.

Anonymous Coward says:

“When an image is published online, the reproduction right and the right of communication to the public of this image shall be transferred to one or more collecting societies appointed by the French government”

This makes me think they’re referring to images of eg works of art in galleries, images of illuminated manuscripts published by a museum, or sculptures in museums, or stuff like that.

Either that or the wine cellars of France must empty. Put the bottles down, mon freres.

Mark Wing (user link) says:

As a blogger with tens of thousands of images indexed by various search engines, it seems ridiculous for some third party to shake everyone down on my behalf.

I’d rather see my images pulled and my site’s traffic reduced in countries with draconian copyright than see some foreign company profit from my work in the name of protecting me from people profiting from my work.

Many of my readers find my site by searching for my images and visiting my site because of it.

Gracey (profile) says:

This makes no sense. As an image creator, I wouldn’t want some other group collecting any royalties for me, thank you very much anyways.

It’s my right to claim or not claim such fees, not someone else’s.

How exactly would this even be thought of as helpful to anyone creating images? It isn’t. It’s only helpful to the collection groups.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I’d be surprised if those events lasted as long as the fables. The point of the fables is that if you let others cater for your rights for a reasonable fee, the reasonable fees will start stacking up. The stock market eats more money than it pays out these days, the government’s largest expense is running the government, the entertainment industry’s largest expense aren’t the actual creators. For every leech on the money’s way, of course the fees are only a minor part of the cake. But the money has a long way to go.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Oh by all means, please explain how demanding a fee to display images, whether the one who posted the image wants to be paid for it or not, somehow qualifies as ‘checks and balances’.

While you’re at if you can also explain how Google and Facebook have ‘too much power over the internet’, and how this is supposed to reign that in by putting them in the position of dropping images entirely for anyone in france, or simply shutting down service in france if that’s not enough to bypass the idiocy that is this law.

JBDragon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

You do know the Internet is more then Google and Facebook! Both of which I rarely even use. For searches, I’d rather use DuckDuckGo instead which isn’t infested with a ton of Ad’s!!!

Facebook I rarely use because why do I want my life up on the Web for some company to profit from? So I have very little info on their and rarely visit. I’m really only there so that I can connect with old friends from 20+ years ago and it’s worked for that.

There’s also a lot of other options you can use. Maybe put a tiny bit of effort into it and not default to these 2!!!
This has nothing to do with Checks and Balances and all about stealing more money from a rich American Company(s).

Anonymous Coward says:

i think this law also requires to provide a LIST of sources to the French authorities…

i guess now services like Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, DeviantArt, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat, Foursquare, Pinterest, Google (Youtube), Reddit, IMDB, GitHub, Soundcloud will have to either provide a FULL LIST of users from France to the French authorities so that they get, ahem, “Paid”

if you can upload any kind of picture/moving picture to a site, that site probably has to provide a full list of french users along with the mandatory payment.

or they’ll just BAN all users from France. much simpler this way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

P.S. and yes, it is all those sites and more. The text of the law doesn’t limit itself to search engines and indexed images, it also says all types of image display for reference purposes.

Uploading an image to Instagram/Twitter/DeviantArt or any other web site fits the “reference” purposes because you can link to them.

Chapitre VI

« Dispositions applicables à la recherche et au référencement des œuvres d’art plastiques, graphiques ou photographiques

« Art. L. 136‑1. – On entend par service automatisé de référencement d’images, au sens du présent chapitre, tout service de communication au public en ligne dans le cadre duquel sont reproduites et mises à la disposition du public, à des fins d’indexation et de référencement, des œuvres d’art plastiques, graphiques ou photographiques collectées de manière automatisée à partir de services de communication au public en ligne.

« Art. L. 136‑2. – I. – La publication d’une œuvre d’art plastique, graphique ou photographique à partir d’un service de communication au public en ligne emporte la mise en gestion, au profit d’une ou plusieurs sociétés régies par le titre II du livre III de la présente partie et agréées à cet effet par le ministre chargé de la culture, du droit de reproduire et de représenter cette œuvre dans le cadre de services automatisés de référencement d’images. À défaut de désignation par l’auteur ou par son ayant droit à la date de publication de l’œuvre, une des sociétés agréées est réputée gestionnaire de ce droit.

« II. – Les sociétés agréées sont seules habilitées à conclure toute convention avec les exploitants de services automatisés de référencement d’images aux fins d’autoriser la reproduction et la représentation des œuvres d’art plastiques, graphiques ou photographiques dans le cadre de ces services et de percevoir les rémunérations correspondantes fixées selon les modalités prévues à l’article L. 136‑4. Les conventions conclues avec ces exploitants prévoient les modalités selon lesquelles ils s’acquittent de leurs obligations de fournir aux sociétés agréées le relevé des exploitations des œuvres et toutes informations nécessaires à la répartition des sommes perçues aux auteurs ou à leurs ayants droit.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Typo

Hmm, I had thought that maybe just gutting the pictures and offering the gutted version to french users might be enough, but given how insanely stupid this law is I doubt that would be enough to appease the idiots and parasites who put it into place and stand to benefit from it.

So yeah, sounds like it’s time for those sites to start blocking all users from france, followed immediately by the parasites and politicians(but I repeat myself…) throwing fits about how their blatant cash-grab still applies because people in france can still possibly access the sites.

Peter (profile) says:

The US has turned copyright into a global internet tax payable to Hollywood and Disney – helped by courts who give themselves jurisdiction over the entire world and a USTR with a sole mission to ratchet up copyright and patent terms. Destroying innovation and creativity seems to be seen a bonus rather than a problem – Hollywood and Disney have the deep pockets, not the newcomers.

Can we really blame the French, or the Germans, or Spanish, or the EU for playing the same game and grabbing for their share of the cake, when meaningful discussions about copyright reform are torpedoed by the US before they even start?

Erik says:

Creative vs non creative destruction

Hasn’t anyone here read or thought about the arguments put forward by the likes of Jaron Lanier? The quasi-argument that creative works, by the workings of current one-way digital network infrastructure, should be free to piggy back on commercially with aggregation by any super server (search engines in this case)will only lead to extreme concentration of wealth at the current or future super nodes, not the person who faced the marginal cost of creating said content. I salute the government of France to bravely acknowledge the current injustice although I see many problems with this suggested solution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Creative vs non creative destruction

I have news for you, without the search engines, and to a lessor extent the distributors like YouTube, the only route to market for a creative person would be via a traditional publisher, where, if monetization is their intent, they stand to make less than relying on patronage by those people who appreciate their works.
This sort of law will also silence those whose only intent is to share knowledge to allow other to enrich themselves, and not necessarily in a monetary sense, by stiffing the cooperative efforts that freely sharing and communicating ideas enables.
Unlike the MPAA and RIAA members, Google is not the dominant player in its markets because it controls the works produced by others, but rather because it provides services that people find useful, and unlike the traditional publishers it allows people to take their works elsewhere and/or also use other services to distribute the works. It also allow people to tell Google not to index their site using robots.txt, or use that file to exercise fine control over what Google indexes. The people who want Google to pay up are either middlemen whose profits are threatened by competition from people self publishing, r those who use Google to allow their works to be found, but who are not making the income from their works that they think they are entitled to.

cryophallion (profile) says:

This is going to get VERY convoluted...

So, the go to site everyone thinks of is Google images, et al. And rightly, other people realize this is EVERY site with image linking.

But let’s think this through to the next step: stock photo sites. And then let’s mesh this up with the other recent stories:

So, in this case, Getty will give France a copyright authorization on images it doesn’t actually own the true copyright to, in order that France can charge Carol Highsmith on behalf of Getty (taking a small cut in, of course), that gets passed on to Getty (who takes a small cut… well, the total cut in this case, nothing gets back to the creators).

In this case, I assume France is not liable, since it was provided wrong information by Getty, but really, in a very real sense, this is just France getting a cut (and first in line, nonetheless!, because it hasn’t even been licensed yet!). And not even on purchase, which is typically when a payout occurs, but instead upon the making available.

So, wait, does this mean that I should expect a royalty check from France the second my image becomes available (not even downloaded by an end user, because this is before that)? Cool. I shall go make a ton of junk images online and submit them to Getty and all the other stock photo sites. I’ll laugh all the way to my very tiny piggy bank!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: This is going to get VERY convoluted...

Holy crap you’re right.

I’m now writing a a script that creates a black screen, then randomly adds one pixel in a random color, then posts it to getty…..

It’ll take around 200 hours to process a hundred billion or so images (including upload time).

Let’s see if I can bankrupt Getty 🙂

Cryophallion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is going to get VERY convoluted...

Sweet, you mean we can get PETA to protect us? Or a similar organization that is for the robots rights (I wonder if they’d oppose the 3 laws, that’s an interesting dynamic).

The important buts are that these societies who exist seem to fail miserably in actually paying people (see the recent articles here about the mechanical music royalty failing, I’m on my phone so I’m not linking them here). Then we have the article I released about Getty. The issue is that there is so much muddied and muddled information out there, and them making every person now a creator is going to get very messy, very fast. They can’t even keep on top of the normal artists (music or image) to begin with, who supposedly expect to get paid. Now we have then having a database with up to the date on… Everyone?!? That’s just scary and it’s going to be woefully inaccurate.
Well, at least that family who had the company use it’d image for a billboard would have an easier time of it…

The question is, can I make them make this a mechanical right, so I can use any image and they will take care of tracking down and paying the creator? That would be interesting.

Andy says:

What a joke.

This actually affects many services, all social media like facebook and reddit, all search engines and all image repositories just in case they can be sued for allowing people to look at images generated by the public for free consumption.
Maybe the best thing would be for France to be blocked by every other country, all isps refuse any connection from France.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: What a joke.

They’d still demand that everyone else pay them.

Can’t remember which company it was specifically(think it was Google), but france is one of those ‘right to re-write history’ countries, and they asserted that simply blocking french users from the results of a ‘blocked’ search wasn’t good enough, it had to apply globally so that no-one would be able to see the search results that were ordered censored.

Even if it was literally impossible for french users to see the pictures in question they parasites there would still be demanding payment just in case someone saw an image and didn’t pay for the ‘privilege’ of doing so.

Anonymous Coward says:

I see browser updates coming in the near future...

Changelog: Google Chrome FR, FireFox FR and Edge FR is now textbased only to avoid clashing with French law. Instead of images previously shown on any page there will now be a small description of what the image displays.
Example: Monkey seemingly smiling into camera (By PETA).
Example 2: Cute kitten with a sad expression on its face, overlayed with the caption: “Can I haz cheezburger?”.
Example 3: Family smiling, with the tag “Me and my family before father died”

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...