Friday, 28 October 2016

Ancillary Copyright Measure Might Infringe On Social Media

The ancillary copyright juggernaut trundles on despite the debacle that ensued when Google packed up and left Spain over it. While the hotly-disputed link tax element has gone, the insistence on charging for headlines and snippets shared online remains.

Newspaper print sales are falling and advertising revenues are dwindling as people increasingly get their news online. Merging advertising sales services is one strategy they're looking into but they're locked in a tailspin until they find a way to be relevant again.

As usual, the EU Council on copyright in the Digital Single Market hasn't thought this through. Per Pirate MEP Julia Reda, we could all be on the hook for infringement if we see an article we like and share it. The wording does nothing to separate between private and public actors: "information society service provider" isn't very well defined. The nub of the argument is in the vague wording of Chapter 2:

Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users shall, in cooperation with rightholders, take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rightholders for the use of their works - Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on copyright in the Digital Single Market, Chapter 2

If you have a blog or social media account and share a link and snippet without getting a licence first, you're infringing. While rightsholders are unlikely to go thundering after you to make you pay up for one tweet, if sharing is habitual and you're politically active, they might just do that to shut you up. If you work for an online publication or run a blog more popular than this one, be prepared to cough up and to spend a lot of time engaged in anti-infringement activity ensuring that commenters (if you have any) don't infringe on the rights (real or imagined) of the rightsholders. It's a mess.

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