To summarise: OpenMedia are pushing back against proposals in the EU for a broad new hyperlinking fee that will affect us all. If the European Commission succeed copyright rules will be extended to the little snippets of text that automatically accompany hyperlinks - giving big publishers the right to charge business fees for linking to content. The link tax stifles innovation for new online services (think: the next Reddit or Twitter) – and ensures the dominance of entrenched players. Only the biggest search engines and media groups will have the power to negotiate these new licenses. Smaller companies will lose out - unable to afford new hyperlinking fees, or finding businesses refusing to pay for link to them.
As the #SaveTheLink campaign note, “new mandatory censorship machines websites which upload content will have to build expensive programs to spy for copyright infringement. These bots won’t be able to understand legal and fair uses of content. Imagine videos, website posts, and art deleted as soon as they are uploaded because of a biased algorithm”.
With that in mind, I wanted to add to our original call to action with some useful points which I hope speak directly to some of the concerns raised:
- The remit of the proposal extends beyond search engines and commercial use and could result in publishers being eligible to charge charities and individuals for sharing hyperlinks.
- Lots of charities, and SMEs rely on content curation, on identifying key news sources from PR sources. A list of favourable recent news coverage, may well be subject to hyperlinking charges (“the link tax”).
- As our friends at #SaveTheLink have said previously, those lobbying in favour of the legislation contacted MEPs in November starting "Systematic scraping of content on the other hand – which is widespread and involves copying content ‘en masse’ into a private and permanently retained database, processing it and using extracts of text, sometimes with images, in commercial services together with hyperlinks for commercial gain is not equivalent to the activities of individuals browsing the web and posting links to things they are interested in." They say that it is not about hyperlinks, but make it clear that they see sharing hyperlinks with text as being an activity that should be restricted via this law. Much like our work with members on issues like the NLA (and our CJEU victory), copyright is not an abstract for this industry: it has real, concrete outcomes.
To follow up with some other sources that PR and communications professionals will find useful:
- The legislation itself: Full European legislation on the Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market.
- Ruth Coustick-Deal’s blog on the launch of the campaign – which explains how Oettinger overrode journalists themselves disliking the idea and has the most current news.
- Coustick-Deal’s guide to “the link tax” for MEPs.
- This piece by the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Jeremy Malcolm makes some effort to explain things.
- GEL is a policy organisation focused on ancillary copyright and are very useful updates.
- Communia are a great source on this and their “A Guide for the Perplexed” can be accessed here.
As a reminder, members are encouraged to use copy from OpenMedia’s website as they wish. A list of past articles on this issue can be found here. The updated call to action page can also be found here. PR and Communications, as an industry, has a major role to play in #SaveTheLink.