The EU Commission has just extended its deadline for comment on its copyright review/reform for an extra 30 days. Those possibly affected by any changes routed through this would do well to add their input, especially as a couple of the issues being considered would turn normal internet sharing into copyright infringement.
Jakob Kucharczyk at Project DisCo (Disruptive Competition) points out two particularly troubling questions under consideration.
How about this question:
“Should the provision of a hyperlink leading to a work or other subject matter protected under copyright, either in general or under specific circumstances, be subject to the authorization of the rightholder?”
A similarly pivotal one:
“Should the viewing of a web-page where this implies the temporary reproduction of a work protected under copyright on the screen and in the cache memory of the user’s computer be subject to the authorization of the rightholder?”
One could simply paraphrase these questions into: would you like to break the Internet as we know it and criminalize Internet users for viewing a web-page? These questions are not theoretical; they are currently in front of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU).
If these are codified, embedding a video on a third-party site would trigger a licensing fee. This isn't just a concern for bloggers or others who operate websites. This would affect everyone. Post a link or a video via Facebook or Twitter? That's infringement. Sure, larger sites would probably be covered by blanket licenses, but that's of very little comfort. Throwing permission/licenses into the third-party mix would create problems everywhere.
The second question is even worse. Now, even those simply viewing
the posts of others would be infringing simply because a temporary cache copy has been created for the duration of the viewing.
To any reasonable person, both questions are patently ridiculous. For one thing, attempting to extract fees for embedding or linking to content is double-dipping. YouTube and others already pay licensing fees for content hosted at their sites. Attempting to add a layer of "permission" on top of third-party postings not only creates a legal nightmare for social media services, but also creates the very real possibility of encouraging copyright trolling. Anyone posting a link/embedding a video or simply viewing copyrighted content becomes a potential lawsuit target.
Neither of these questions should be answered "yes," not even by the most diehard copyright maximalist. But that's exactly what an Austrian collection society (AKM) is pushing for
, according to this report sent in by Techflaws
AKM has sent a letter to its 20,000 members, asking for them to comment on the EU Commission's copyright reforms. All well and good, except that AKM seriously wants the first of these considerations to become EU law and has apparently altered the EU Commission's questionnaire in hopes of adding 20,000 supporters' "voices" to the collected comments.
The original questionnaire looks like this:
According to FutureZone, AKM sent this out, but removed everything but the "Yes" option from this question
. It also added some canned wording in the explanation area, suggesting "reasonable compensation" for the embedding of music videos.
AKM fortunately didn't make up its members' minds on cached copies, but it still assumes an embedded video should be subject to double-dipping -- once from the original host and once more from anyone embedding it.
AKM's statement on its site
(posted Feb. 5th) expresses its displeasure with the EU Directive, which it obviously feels offers inadequate compensation.
The EU Directive does not create a fair, level playing field and does not match Austrian standards.
"Fair and level" isn't really what AKM is looking for. That much is apparent in its alteration of the original EU Commission questionnaire.
AKM's stance is being embraced by perhaps the most infamous of collection societies
, GEMA. Spokeswoman Ursula Goebel said GEMA was aligned with AKM. Hyperlinks and cached copies aren't necessarily an issue (or at least one neither collection society feels it can safely approach at this time) but embedded videos are. According to Goebel, embedded videos should be licensed because the end user isn't aware of where the videos originate. In other words, those embedding videos should pay a fee because viewers might think the blog, etc. is the originating source. Taxing one person for someone else's ignorance hardly sounds like a logical reason for adding licensing fees to embeds. The article goes on to question how GEMA hopes to avoid double-dipping on licensing fees (it doesn't -- see below) while noting that this is perfectly in line with GEMA's business model, which is predicated on the assumption that any sharing of content should be subject to licensing fees. (A hearty thank you to Jakob Kucharzyk
for his translation help.)
GEMA isn't shy about its double-dipping aspirations
and has been fighting YouTube for a higher fees for several years now. To date, the end result has been little more than the endless aggravation of German YouTube viewers, who are greeted with the quizzical "Sorry" faces
at a disproportionately higher rate than any other nation in the world.
The upside is that the comment period has been extended. The most hardline collection societies don't appear to be overly eager to shatter the web in search on income, but AKM's apparent "remix" of the EU Commission's questionnaire (and GEMA's thumbs-up) shows how far they're willing to go to "tax" a stream both coming and going.