The EU is preparing to tax the internet out of existence

Well, it’s not exactly a “tax” per se, but more like a series of fees being paid between content providers and aggregators. The EU has been working on a new copyright law since last summer which is now in the final stages of consideration in the EU Parliament. On the surface, it sounds fairly harmless. They claim to be building a system where internet content creators will have full ownership of the work they produce and be paid for the use of such content. What’s not to like, right?

The devil is in the details. Articles 11 and 13 of this act contain some hefty restrictions. Under the provisions of this legislation, any content aggregator would be forced to enter into an agreement with every content creator they feature and compensate them if they show a snippet of text from their publications or an embedded image. (Android Central)

The European Union’s new Copyright Directive stands to dramatically change the way we consume news and other online content. Although originally intended to ensure creators and news organizations are fairly compensated for their work, the directive will more likely make quality news harder to find, throw financial and technical roadblocks in the way of smaller online publishers and creators, stifle free speech and negatively impact internet culture.

The directive is currently in the late stages of closed-door negotiations between the European Commission, European Parliament and European Council before being put to a vote of EU member nations. If passed as-is, it’ll be a major change to the balance of power around online copyright. The ripples from the EU CD are likely to be felt even outside the EU’s borders — in areas as serious as major news coverage, and as silly as the memes we see on Twitter and Facebook.

The upshot of all this is that search engines like Google or Bing wouldn’t be able to show previews of articles or images from those articles in their search results. That basically puts services like Google News out of business. They can return a list of titles for a search query with a link to the content, but that’s it. And far too many titles don’t include enough information to catch a user’s attention.

It’s not just search engines, however. Many sites, including Hot Air, act as aggregators in their own fashion. The Headlines section of our front page is nothing but a collection of links with a short snippet of the text to give the reader a sense of what the article is about. You can then choose to follow the link to read the full article if you wish. In addition, most of our articles, such as the one you are reading now, include a blockquote section of text along with a link to the article. Under these new provisions, we would have to pay each content source for the right to include that snippet and the link. Article 11 would force us to basically block the entire European Union from viewing Hot Air.

The EU Parliament is scheduled to vote on this tomorrow. They should have kept in mind what happened when Spain passed a similar law in 2014. Google News (along with a number of other aggregators) was shut down in that country until the repeal of the legislation. The EU may be doing this with good intentions, specifically to make sure that copyrights are respected and content creators are able to be compensated for their work. But they’re about to have a head-on collision with the law of unintended consequences.