The EU is to update the unions copyright laws. The first step was a public consultation, with a lot of input from so-called stakeholders, civil society, and ordinary citizens. The next step is to make an “impact assessment”.
Thanks to State Watch, this impact assessment has now been leaked. [Link, PDF»] As far as this document goes, we can expect a rather problematic proposal for a law (a directive or possibly a regulation) late September.
For example, the EU Commission seems to be rather keen on the idea of a “link tax” – also known as the “Google tax“.
The idea comes from Spain and Germany where the big media houses managed to lobby trough a fee for links with short snippets from the news material in question. The (rather ill-conceived) idea is that Google News and others linking to articles and other copyright protected material should share their potential revenues with the media they link to.
In Spain, it lead to Google News abandoning the entire Spanish market – resulting in the media having fewer clicks on their articles. And in Germany, many media organisations learned from the Spanish fiasco and have opted out from being a part of this scheme – in order to have a lot of incoming link traffic.
It ought to be obvious to everybody: If you are on the Internet you would like to have as many clicks as possible. Thwarting linking to your own material is just stupid.
As links are the Internets nerve system a link tax will also be a threat to the entire open dynamics of the Internet.
But the EU Commission seems decided to move on with this terrible idea.
There has also been a discussion about “fair use”, i.e. the right to use copyright protected material in the public and political debate, in satire, for memes, for sampling etc. There are no indications in this impact assessment that the EU intends to loosen up the copyright regime in this regard.
Only small steps will be taken to relax geoblocking (where you cannot see national television broadcasts on the net in other countries or Netflix if you go on holiday abroad). In essence, there will be no common European digital market.
There might also be new and possibly stricter enforcement of copyright on platforms for user-generated material, like Youtube and Soundcloud. As a consequence, this might make it more difficult for others to compete with existing platforms, as automated systems for copyright enforcement are complicated and very expensive to implement.
This impact assessment implies that there will be no substantial copyright reform to move the EU into the 21:st century.
Now it’s up to civil society, Internet freedom activists, advocates for free speech and others to voice their concerns to the EU Commission. (The copyright industry’s and Big Entertainment industry’s lobbyist are already all over the place.)
It is easier to change things now – before they are laid down in a formal proposal for European law.
The next step is for the Commission to table a proposal for a directive (probably in late September). Then it needs to be approved by the Council (member states) and the European Parliament (the people’s elected representatives).
• The EU Commissions leaked impact assessment (PDF) »
• Ars Technica: Google snippet tax, geoblocking, other copyright reform shunned in EU plan »
• EFF: European Copyright Leak Exposes Plans to Force the Internet to Subsidize Publishers »
• The Mozilla Blog: EU Copyright Law Undermines Innovation and Creativity on the Internet. Mozilla is Fighting for Reform »
• Ars Technica: “Google tax” on snippets under serious consideration by European Commission »