French news site Numerama reports on a proposal by French politicians to ban hyperlinking to a creative work without permission (English translation by Open Media). The idea, proposed by two Socialist members of parliament, had already been proposed before but was rejected. Now they are making another attempt to get it passed.
Previously, the Court of Justice of the European Union(CJEU) had ruled that linking to a protected work did not require authorization from the rights holder unless the link circumvented measures to restrict access to the work. Works which are publicly available and not behind any sort of paywall or password protection can be freely linked to under that ruling. The court arrived at its decision based on the current EU directives and treaties regarding copyright. The proposal by the French MPs would require permission even to link to publicly available works, and directly contradicts the CJEU’s ruling.
This law is being pushed by media companies in Europe who believe companies like Google owe them money for making a profit off of their works. This argument is presented by Karine Berger, one of the MPs behind the proposal. In her argument for the bill, she stated, “Just look at Google’s referencing procedures: they are based on hyperlinks, and links that lead to copyright-protected works on their publishing site are precisely what allows Google to create any added value whatsoever. In other words, some commercial Internet operators benefit from the value of some copyright-protected cultural goods and services without ever paying for using them. The amendment, by raising the question as to whom is responsible for collecting value through hyperlinks, aims at overturning jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union. It is a paramount legal and economic issue.”
Axelle Lemaire, a fellow socialist MP, argued against the proposal. While recognizing there is some controversy surrounding the linking of copyrighted works, and mentioning that several other European countries were grappling with the same issue, Lemaire believed that dealing with this issue at the national level would not be appropriate at this time. She warned that France could face issues if trying to address this issue on its own, and suggested it would be best to handle it at a European level.