European Commission Plots Web-Breaking Copyright Reform

REUTERS/Yves Herman
REUTERS/Yves Herman

The European Commission, the most powerful body in the EU, is planning web regulation described by one politician as “its most dangerous yet.” Draft documents, leaked by bloggers, shows the Commission planning to regulate hyperlinks, one of the foundational forms of communication on the web.

The new rules would hold all online actors, from search engines to ordinary users, legally responsible for the act of hyperlinking (this is a hyperlink). If a hyperlink leads to copyrighted content, the draft EU rules would force users to ask for permission from the copyright holder before linking.

According to Julia Reda, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) representing the Pirate Party, the proposed regulations would ensure “each weblink would become a legal landmine and would allow press publishers to hold every single actor on the Internet liable.”

In other words, search engines like Google would have to ask publishers like Breitbart for permission before linking to our articles. This may provide some short-term advantages to publishers like us — but it would also cripple ordinary communication on the internet.

There are concerns that the European Commission wants to use hyperlink regulation to bolster the publishing industry, which has been hit by the decline of paper publishing and online ad revenue. The EU has a history of protectionism in industries like agriculture, and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, has called on the E.U to “act” now to protect old media publishers from the threat posed by the internet.

Julia Reda thinks that publishers have too much sway in the EU: “The publishers are clearly wielding so much influence through lobbying that there is nothing that can stop big-party politicians from trying to misapply copyright law in order to support obsolete business models.”

Don’t forget to hyperlink this article to your friends — while you can!

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