Here we go again: you have 24 hours to stop a “link tax” from entering European legislation

UPDATE 9 JULY, from Julia Reda: “Parliament today also rejected a renewed attempt from German conservative MEPs to pave the way for an ancillary copyright for press publishers. This should be the final blow to the idea of introducing at the European level a law to cross-finance news publishers which has already failed spectacularly in Germany and Spain.”

Well done everyone!


You might recall the recent debate in a European Parliament committee which threatened the right to create links to any content you wanted. The final Committee vote is tomorrow, Thursday 9 July. While the worst of the nonsense was killed off in last month’s discussions, sadly, a few legislative zombies have arisen and are making another charge at the target. If successful, their move could cause internet users like you and me to incur a link tax or a “snippet tax” on the content we have linked to – and wouldn’t certain media conglomerates just love that?

Julia Reda, the tech-savvy MEP doing a superhero’s job of trying to drag copyright kicking and screaming into the internet age, summarised what’s at stake in her blog.

A last-minute amendment by German EPP member Angelika Niebler is threatening to undermine my report for a progressive copyright reform: The freedom to hyperlink is at stake, should amendment 1 be adopted during Thursday’s final plenary vote. Although her attempt at introducing a call for an ancillary copyright for press publishers to my report was already rejected by the Legal Affairs Committee, and even though the political groups had agreed not to table any additional proposals, she is taking another shot… This renewed attempt at introducing a European ancillary copyright is clearly the work of publishing giants that are still spending most of their energy fighting technological progress, rather than developing new business models that work with (and not against) the Internet. Those in the publishing world who prefer to look ahead, meanwhile, spare no criticism.

If you read Julia Reda’s full blog post on the issue, it’s clear that this situation is a repeat of what we saw in the UK in January in the Snooper’s Charter debate. Back then, a cabal of self-interested securocrat Peers didn’t get their way through formal Parliamentary procedure, so they proceeded to hijack and abuse it. Today, we now have an attempt to introduce ancilliary copyright through the back door.

What can you do, aside from fantasising about locking politicians and legislators in a dark room with orders not to come out until they’ve built a bootstrapped e-commerce startup with their bare hands? You can do the same thing you had to do last month when this nonsense started:

  1. Educate yourself about what’s at stake;
  2. Sign this petition here;
  3. Contact your MEP today and tell them to oppose Amendment 1 of 2014/2256, the draft implementation of Implementation of Directive 2001/29/EC, the attempt to introduce ancilliary copyright on internet content;
  4. Spread the word to your fellow web professionals with these suggested social media posts, graphics, and widgets;
  5. Join a digital rights organisation in your country – it’s Open Rights Group here in the UK;
  6. Read Cory Doctorow’s book on how existing copyright laws have been drafted entirely in the interests of big old media conglomerates.

Finally, remember what I said at WordCamp London about how we continually shoot ourselves in the feet as a profession by refusing to organise and professionalise, with the result that 20 years into web design and development’s existence, we still lack any formal cross-platform representative group to speak up on our behalf as a profession? That we have no “Chartered Institute of Web Professionals” or “Design and Development Providers Association” to fight our corner? The result of that is me having to ask you for the second time in a month to sign someone else’s petition. As long as this crap is going to keep happening, we’re going to need to have a serious think about whether our industry can survive without a formal, organised, political, and professional voice. stl_fbshare_email02

About the author
Heather Burns is a digital law specialist in Glasgow, Scotland. She researches, writes, publishes, consults, and speaks extensively on internet laws and policies which affect the crafts of web design and development. She has been designing and developing web sites since 1997 and has been a professional web site designer since 2007. She holds a postgraduate certification in internet law and policy from the University of Strathclyde. Learn about hiring Heather to write, speak, or consult.