European Commission lacks vision for copyright in the digital age

The copyright reform proposal presented by the European Commission in september 2016 fails to meet the needs of citizens, educators, and researchers across Europe. Instead of strengthening the information economy, the proposal preserves a status quo defined in the analog age.

The Link Tax

This includes unprecedented new Link Tax powers for publishing giants, as well as requirements for websites to monitor and filter content. This will hurt your right to access and share content.

The European Commission has proposed, as part of the Copyright Directive on the Digital Single Market to allow news publishers to claim an additional copyright over the snippets of text which automatically appear alongside most links.

As a result linking to online news content would therefore require a license and explicit permission from the publisher.

It would give press publishers the right to charge fees for websites operating any form of business using snippets of text when they link to content from press publishers.

The European Commission promised to modernise copyright, but instead of creating a well-functioning legal framework addressing the concerns of creators and end-users it proposes to protect old business models by creating what it claims to be a “well-functioning marketplace”.

A disaster for educators, non-profits and individuals

The European Commission is also demanding that companies create or buy expensive new technologies to monitor and filter the content we create. This means every website or service that allows users to upload content will have to build expensive robot programs to spy for material that rightsholders want to block. What’s worse is that these bots won’t be able to make exceptions for parody, public interest, fair use, and many other legal forms of expression.

Because the draft of the Copyright Directive does not limit the implementation of this proposal to aggregators and search engines, it may also allow press publishers to charge non-profits, social media websites, or even individuals who communicate online using hyperlinks. The proposed educational exception, despite having some good elements, will overall worsen the legal environment for educators.

And it likely will introduce major costs for public educational systems around Europe.

Access to most audio-visual content will continue to be hampered by geo-blocking (which the Commission had earlier committed to end), and online platforms might be forced to collaborate with rights holders on censoring content that is shared by users on these platforms. The whole package lacks forward-looking, innovation-friendly measures that embrace digitization as an opportunity for users, creators, businesses, and public institutions in Europe.

We have to act now

Despite opposition from over 120,000 Internet users and dozens of civil society groups, the European Commission charged ahead with its wrong-headed plan. But now that it has reached the European Parliament, we have a real chance to stop it in its tracks. This will have the same impact in Norway as in any if we were full members of EU.

The European community is joining forces to send a clear message to the EU Parliament. We urge everyone that think the web is a wonderful thing to fill out this petition at OpenMedia.

Alek Tarkowsky, Director, Centrum Cyfrowe and Christer Gundersen are co-authors of this text.

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Also published on Medium.