EU’s anti-link sharing law passed. Now what?

On March 26, 2019, the EU Parliament passed the controversial “Copyright Directive” by a vote of 348 to 274 and on April 15, 2019 the EU Council of Ministers approved the final text of the directive.   However, unlike the GDPR (the EU’s recent enactment of the General Data Protection law), the Directive will not go into effect immediately.  Member states now have until 2021 (24 months) to enact national legislation to implement the Directive. 

Whatever the original or stated justification, the law was quickly hi-jacked by large traditional media interests as a way to dial back the clock on the internet freedom that has elevated the voice of the many, and, in the view of big business, diminished their prominence and profitability.  For example, Rupert Murdoch (Fox Network, Dow Jones, Sun, etc.) has pushed for this type of legislation for years. Additionally, although originally opposed, new media giants like Facebook and Google, may have tempered their opposition in the realization that it would help eliminate competition from startups who did not have the resources to implement the requirements of the new law.  The impact of the law was discussed more fully in an earlier post.  The EFF has remained a staunch opponent, and in the EU Parliament, opposition was led by MEP Julia Reda.

The offending provisions are now contained in Article 17 but during the legislative process were contained in Article 11 – nicknamed “the link tax” – requires payment for use of links coupled with short excerpts or thumbnail images; and Article 13 – nicknamed “upload filters,” requires (with limited exceptions) the use of software that detects and filters out the use of links and excerpts.  The law limits authorship on the internet far more severely than has been allowed on paper for generations.  It prohibits quotes with citations in the form of links.  The final text of the Copyright Directive law can be found here.

Of course, because the ‘interweb’ is without borders (for the most part), EU rules profoundly impact internet activity in the U.S.  That has been the case with GDPR law.  Future posts will examine how to cope with the law.  Examples of questions to be answered include:

  • Unlinked URLs (i.e. non-hyperlinked URLs):  Are they a way around the law?
  • Links without text – Do they comply?
  • Thumbnail and URL images: In the U.S., if an image is not stored or hosted on the sharing cite (temp files excluded), it is not considered copyright infringement.  These images are sometimes referred to as “images generated from a URL.” How does the law impact URL generated thumbnail images?
  • Excerpts and quotes: How many words or characters before they run afoul of the law?
  • Creative Commons:  Will it be impacted?

If you have additional questions, please pose them in the comments and I will research them and publish in a subsequent post.



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