Link share

Canada wants to introduce a tax on links

from link-taxes-keep-spreading department

A chapter in my book Walled Culture (free download available in various formats) looks at how the bad ideas embodied in the appalling EU Copyright Directive – the worst copyright law to date – are being replicated elsewhere . One that I have not included, as its history is still ongoing, is Canada’s Bill C-18: “An Act respecting online communications platforms that make news content accessible to persons in Canada”. Here is the key idea, which will be quite familiar to readers of this blog:

The bill introduces a new framework for negotiation intended to help news companies obtain fair compensation when their news content is made available by dominant digital news intermediaries and generates economic gain.

In other words, it’s a link tax, designed to charge big digital platforms like Google and Facebook for the privilege of sending traffic to newspaper publishers. The whole depressing story of the copyright industry’s greed is told in Walled Culture. But a new perspective on this latest link tax comes from one of Canada’s top copyright experts, Professor Michael Geist. He has been blogging for some time on Bill C-18 and another terrible copyright law, Bill C-11. They are worth reading for anyone who wants to follow what is happening in Canada and in the field of copyright in general. Geist recently wrote an excellent article on Bill C-18, titled “Why Bill C-18’s Mandated Payment for Links is a Threat to Freedom of Expression in Canada”:

The study of the online news law continues this week as the government and supporters of Bill C-18 continue to insist that the bill does not involve payment for links . These claims are misleading and obviously wrong, even after a cursory reading of the bill. In other words, this bill is no more of a concern. This article explains why link payments exist, why the government knows they exist, and why this approach creates serious risks to the free flow of online information and freedom of expression in Canada.

Geist explains how the Canadian government is dishonest in trying to suggest that the bill is not really about forcing platforms to pay for links, but simply forcing them to somehow compensate the publishers of news for using these links. Geist also points out that C-18 would require links to news from large publishers to be paid for, but not those from smaller media outlets. That in itself reveals that this bill is intended to reward a few corporations at the expense of small publishers. It is also troubling that “the bill actually states that whether compensation is due also depends on where the expression occurs, as it requires some sites to pay to allow their users to speak “. Geist rightly points out that this would set a terrible precedent:

Once the government decides that certain platforms must pay to allow their users to engage in a certain expression, the same principle can be applied to other policy goals. For example, the Canadian organization Journalists for Human Rights has argued that misinformation is akin to information pollution and that platforms should pay a fee to host such expression, much like the model in the bill. C-18. The same policies can also be extended to other areas deemed worthy of government support. Do you think that health information or educational materials are important and that these sectors could benefit from additional support? Why not require payments for these links from platforms. Indeed, once the principle of the paying nature of the links has been established, the whole basis of online information sharing is jeopardized and the essential equality of freedom of expression compromised.

This perfectly sums up why the whole link tax idea is so pernicious. It seeks to favor certain materials over other types and would turn the fundamentally egalitarian glue of the World Wide Web – links – into something that must be paid for in many cases, destroying much of its power.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitteror juggernaut. Republished from the Walled Culture blog.

Filed Under: c-18, canada, copyright, eu, free speech, free speech, link tax