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Aug. 31, 2016 – Today, a draft of the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market has leaked and confirms that the EU Commission’s plans are far worse than advocates had previously feared. Contained in the documents are new powers for publishing giants, including the ability to charge fees when snippets of text are used in hyperlinks — a.k.a the Link Tax.

Today’s leak follows hot on the heels of last week’s leaked Impact Assessment, which exposed the Commission’s plans to introduce a Link Tax — despite opposition by nearly 100,000 people supporting the Save the Link campaign. The Directive will face debate and final approval by Members of the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union beginning in the second half of September.

“We were bracing for something bad, but this is far worse than we anticipated,” said OpenMedia’s digital rights specialist Ruth Coustick-Deal. “If implemented, these proposals will dramatically restrict how EU citizens can share and access information online. Without links to route us around the web, the content we want to see will be locked away.”

Coustick-Deal continued: “These proposals strike a blow at the very foundations of an open Internet. If they are made law, the EU will fall far behind the rest of the world when it comes to digital innovation, the exact opposite of the intention behind the Commission’s Digital Single Market plan. With MEPs soon to vote on this, they’re sure to get an earful from Internet users who are ready to fight these absurd proposals.”

Key problems with the Commission’s leaked copyright directive include:

  • In a detailed assessment, experts at IGEL have stated the proposals “read like an answer to the wish list of the publishing industry.” Under the proposals, it won’t just be aggregators or search engines impacted, but “everybody who communicates online.”

  • The proposals lack any user protections that were campaigned for by civil society, regarding freedom of panorama and ancillary copyright. The Commission has yet to release the results of a consultation on these issues.

  • Online intermediaries will need to negotiate licences with rights holders, and to filter and monitor user-generated content, in conflict with the Commission’s 2001 InfoSoc Directive that intermediaries are not liable for acts of communication to the public by users.

  • Experts have also warned the proposed laws are drafted so vaguely, with few of the key terms well-defined, that it’s impossible to ascertain the extent of the long-term damage they could cause.

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Civil society groups and Internet users are also demanding that the Commission publish the results from its recent consultation on ancillary copyright and freedom of panorama, both of which are impacted by the leaked proposals without acknowledgement of public feedback.

Citizens across the EU and the world can speak out against these proposals at SaveTheLink.org

Background

The Right to Link is under threat in Europe and around the world:

  • In Germany, influential press publishers forced legislators to implement an ‘ancillary copyright for press publishers’ that limits how others can link to their news websites. The legislation pushes search engines and news aggregators to acquire licenses for links that include snippets, resulting in lost and inaccessible content.

  • That same approach was then copied in Spain, where Google News was forced to shut down due to new copyright rules forcing web publishers to pay a fee in order to link out to external content.

  • In Canada, a provincial court passed a ruling ordering Google to block website search results, not just from its Canadian service, but from its worldwide index.

  • In the U.S., media conglomerates are trying to exploit obscure trade rules to block access to foreign websites they disapprove of.

  • In Russia, lawmakers have approved legislation that will force websites to remove search results about a specific person, at that person’s request.

OpenMedia works to keep the Internet open, affordable, and surveillance-free. We create community-driven campaigns to engage, educate, and empower people to safeguard the Internet. www.openmedia.org