EU Commission releases final version of its Copyright Communication

Am 9. Dezember 2015 - 15:02 Uhr von Till Kreutzer

Today, the Commission’s published its action plan on copyright in the Digital Age “Towards a modern, more European copyright framework” (PDF). Compared to the leaked draft paper the final version contains quite a few but significant changes. Especially with regard to the ancillary copyright.

Now it is out: The Commission will ignore the Parliament’s refusal of ancillary copyright approaches!

More openly than in the draft the Commission refers to the ancillary copyright for press publishers. On page 10 it reads: “It will also consider whether any action specific to news aggregators is needed, including intervening on rights”. The blunt reference to new regulation for news aggregators (i.e. ancillary copyright) was inserted into the final version.

At least the Commission eventually admits here frankly that it is working on or at least evaluating options for a European ancillary copyright. But by that it explicitly ignores the European Parliaments refusal of such plans. Attempts to implement a pro-ancillary copyright amendment into the Reda-Report on copyright were rejected by a great majority of all groups in the EP. It is highly irritating that the Commissions seems to follow the lobbying efforts of the press publishers rather than listening to the elected representatives of the EU member states.


No “link tax” but a “snippet tax”?

In addition to the communication paper the Commission has released a so called “fact sheet”, which is actually a FAQ list. Here, the Commission explains (emphasis added):

“Does the Commission intend to tax hyperlinks?

The Commission has no plan to tax hyperlinks.We have no intention to ask people to pay for copyright when they simply share a hyperlink to content protected by copyright. Europeans share and post hyperlinks every day and they should remain free to do so.

The Commission will look at the activities of different types of intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected content. This is a different issue.

News aggregators, for example, are not only using hyperlinks but also extracts of articles and may gain revenue doing so.

Different solutions related to news aggregators, both legislative and market-led, are being tested at national level. We are closely looking into them and are analysing whether they deliver on their objectives.”

By rejecting the general link tax (for end-users) the Commission apparently reacts to the thousands of user comments expressing concerns about such a constraint to the right to link. However the try to make a distinction between sharing only links and sharing links with snippets (“extracts of articles”) proves a fundamental misunderstanding of linking as the basic communicative act on the net: A link without a short extract from the linked webpage is useless. Not only intermediaries add snippets to links but everybody does all the time. If this “snippeting” is made subject to copyright law, this would be the end to effective linking. It would be the end to tweeting and sharing news on Facebook and many other ways to exchange information online!

So again we claim: Dear European Commission, dear Commissioners Oettinger and Ansip, please listen to the European Parliament and drop this harmful idea which is a threat to the Internet itself. Once and for all! 

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