Got a hyperlink on your web-site? Hey, there’s a EU tax for that!

Well, the European Parliament has finally passed the EU Copyright Directive by a majority of 438 to 226.

This ‘interesting’ EU-wide law states that (a) anybody who links to a web page and uses more than two words found in said web page has to pay copyright fees to the originating website as long as it considers itself a newspaper and (b) anybody who uploads videos/pictures to the internet has to have prior permission from the copyright holder and needs to pay them a fair shake for doing so. E.g. kiss goodbye to memes, picture/video parodies and fair-use rebuttals in online discourse, and expect take-down notices and constant lawfare – many issued in error or with malicious/extorting intent – to fly like bullets from a chain-gun linked to an infinite ammo factory.

I actually read the full paper as voted on by the MEPs – which is more than many of them can do, given the insanely high throughput of daily legislation (they usually get their paid advisers and PAs to read new directives, then give guidance on how to vote).

‘Micro’ businesses are exempt from the EU Copyright Directive – defined by the EU as less than ten paid employees, so at least my author’s blog and zine should wriggle out of this, no matter how the UK finally ‘Brexits’ from the European Union.

EU Space Pirates, raiding your universe for hyperlinks very soon.

However, there are so many holes in this law that you could drive a Battlestar through it.

No decent definition of ‘newspaper’, for starters, as far as the link tax is concerned.

Is a ‘newspaper’?

Will I soon be coming after you Patent Troll-style for you linking to SFcrowsnest articles on FaceBook?

You’re only allowed to use a maximum of two matching words from any piece being linked to. Does ‘the’ and ‘a’ count, in which case illegal infraction by you is guaranteed?

So many questions.

No hints on how this unworkable mire is to actually be implemented, either. Each nation state in the EU will have to come up with its own technology and process solutions – e.g. 28 different national versions of how you as a website owner have to caper like a marmoset to this nonsense.

This is what happens when you have the European Commission and Council – the un-elected European equivalent of Croydon Town Planning Department – issuing legislation & only then giving often clueless careerist MEPs a yes/no vote on passing it.

You can’t hold the Council or Commission’s feet to the fire by voting them out, sadly, to spank them for this lack of understanding of what the internet is and how it works.

The video/picture copyright uploading part of the new law means that only the likes of Google and FaceBook will be able to afford to develop the monster infraction filters/database/complaint handling systems; thereby guaranteeing their monopoly against any new smaller competitors who may emerge.

As an author, I’m always for putting money in content creators’ pockets, the stated aim of this law. Fairly sure in two years’ time I’m not going to be any wealthier for the passage of this technically illiterate idiocy, though.


I am an author of various fantasy, science fiction, crime and other genre books from Gollancz, Hachette and HarperCollins. Some day I hope to grow up and be an astronaut. Exploring Mars would be nice.

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