One of the most controversial elements of the EU's new Copyright Directive is Article 11, the "link tax," which requires paid licenses for links to news stories that contain "excerpts" (more than a single word from the story or its headline, depending on which draft you're reading).
But link taxes go even farther than merely requiring paid licenses: the accompanying "Recital 32" suggests that copyright owners won't be allowed to waive this right, and will have to negotiate a separate license for every platform that wants to link to them.
The thing is, some of the largest and best news organisations in the world already permit free excerpting, linking and republishing, by choosing Creative Commons licenses and other open access licenses for their work. These organisations like ProPublica, Global Voices and others — want their news spread far and wide, partially because they want their investigative work to be part of the global conversation and partly because they rely on charitable donations from readers to support their work and offering open access is a powerful way to convince donors that their gifts support the public good.
The Copyright Directive is mostly composed of some reasonable, broadly supported technical updates to EU copyright rules, but at the last minute, a German MEP called Axel Voss crammed a pair of incoherent, controversial and extreme clauses into the draft that was to be voted on by Parliament.
Now, months later, the whole directive is in danger of going down in flames, and if it does, it will be because of outrageous garbage like this.
Article 11's trampling of Creative Commons and open access isn't an accident: before link taxes rose to the EU level, some EU countries tried their own national versions. When Germany, tried it the major newspapers simply granted Google a free license to use their works, because they couldn't afford to be boycotted by the search giant. When Spain passed its own link tax, the government tried to prevent newspapers from following the same path by forcing all news to have its own separate, unwaivable commercial right. Spanish publishers promptly lost 14% of their traffic and €10,000,000/year.
All of this is good reason to scrap Article 11 altogether. The idea that creators can be "protected" by banning them from sharing their works is perverse. If copyright is supposed to protect creators' interests, it should protect all interests, including the interests of people who want their materials shared as widely as possible.
The EU's Link Tax Will Kill Open Access and Creative Commons News
[Cory Doctorow/EFF Deeplinks]