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European Union Pushes Forward To Create a Tax On Internet Links

The EU Commission is working to create an EU-wide snippet tax, which would effectively tax internet hyperlinks.

History may not repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes. When European nations were ruled by Kings and Queens, Princes and Dukes, royalty would suppress peasants in a variety of ways, all to enrich their bloodline and strengthen the thrones they held.  Whether by tax or something a bit more sinister, the 1% ruled over the 99% with impunity.

Who could forget the Prima Noctis scene in Braveheart when the Duke of the land rides into the wedding party to “bless” the wedding by taking the bride into his bed.

In the European Union, we may no longer have Prima Noctis, but European citizens are definitely ruled over by an unelected royal class in Brussels who feel it is their right to impose sanctions, quotas, and tax on the peasant class. All of which is meant to keep the money flowing into the ivory towers in Brussels.

Which brings us to the latest, in a long list, of crazy ideas and regulations the EU oligarchs have hatched to make the poor even poorer with every click.

Techdirt has the details on the EU’s Internet “snippet tax”.

We’ve written plenty of times about ridiculous European plans to create a so-called “snippet tax” which is more officially referred to as “ancillary rights” (and is really just about creating a tax on Google). The basic concept is that some old school newspapers are so lazy and have so failed to adapt to the internet — and so want to blame Google for their own failures — that they want to tax any aggregator (e.g., Google) that links to their works with a snippet, that doesn’t pay for the privilege of sending those publishers traffic. As you may remember, Germany has been pushing for such a thing for many, many years, and Austria has been exploring it as well. But perhaps the most attention grabbing move was the one in Spain, which not only included a snippet tax, butmade it mandatory. That is, even if you wanted Google News to link to you for free, you couldn’t get that. In response, Google took the nuclear option and shut down Google News in Spain. A study showed that this law has actually done much to harm Spanish publishers, but the EU pushes on, ridiculously.

As discussed a year ago, some in the EU Commission are all for creating an EU-wide snippet tax, and as ridiculous and counterproductive as that is, the Commission is about to make a decision on it, and the public consultation on the issue is about to close (it ends tomorrow). Thankfully, many, many different groups have set up nice and easy systems to understand and respond to the consultation — which you should do. Here are just a few options:

– The EU Commission’s own consultation platform (this one is messy, buggy, and annoying, but it’s the official one).

– The site has a well done “answering guide” that helps you through the consultation and explains the details behind many of the questions in the consultation.

– from OpenMedia has a simple signup form that just adds your name to a letter.

– The group Allied for Startups has another good sign on letter Stop the link tax

There’s also a good detailed discussion of why this snippet tax is the wrong solution from European copyright lawyer Remy Chavannes. Here’s just a… um… snippet (that I didn’t pay for):

In fact, there is precious little indication that the challenges currently being faced by press publishers are due to the lack of sufficiently broad intellectual property rights. And if insufficient IP rights are not a significant part of the problem, increasing IP rights is unlikely to be a significant part of the solution. At a recent conference in Amsterdam, speakers from publishers, academia, politics, civil society and the internet sector were in near-total agreement that a neighbouring right for publishers would solve nothing at best. It would seem more fruitful to investigate other ways in which the position and prospects of publishers of quality journalism can be increased, e.g. via subsidies, tax facilities, the partial repurposing of public broadcasting funds, or other measures that reflect the significant value to a democratic society of having a vigorous, free and independent press.

Implementation of a neighbouring right would bring significant uncertainty, costs and risks, not just to authors and publishers, but also to the eclectic group of platforms, intermediaries and other service providers that play a role in facilitating the publication, discovery and consumption of press content. Larger, existing broad-based platforms will be incentivised to reduce or remove service features that might trigger the new neighbouring right. New entrants are likely to be discouraged, particularly new entrants who want specifically to serve the market for finding and consuming press content. Depending on the scope of any neighbouring right, moreover, it could also negatively impact providers of social networks as well as providers of access, caching and hosting services. Increasing costs, complexity and uncertainty for such a broad category of service providers threatens the free flow of information and investment in – and availability of – innovative digital services, as well as the commercial prospects for publishers and authors.

Good stuff, and I urge you to read the whole thing — and to respond to the consultation before the EU Commission destroys the link.


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Alex Christoforou
Writer and director forThe Duran - Living the dream in Moscow.

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