Earlier this month Julia Reda, a Member of the European Parliament from Germany, published a blog entitled Ancillary Copyright 2.0: The European Commission is preparing a frontal attack on the hyperlink.
Pointing to a draft European Commission communication on copyright reform, which was leaked through an intellectual property law blog, Reda wrote: "The commission is considering putting the simple act of linking to content under copyright protection. This idea flies in the face of both existing interpretation and spirit of the law as well as common sense. Each weblink would become a legal landmine and would allow press publishers to hold every single actor on the internet liable."
Reda wrote that the draft’s proposals are an attempt "cross-finance struggling publishing houses by asking thriving internet companies such as Google to pay up for linking to publicly available articles", and that while previous work in this area had resulted in new laws in Germany and Spain, the latest proposals were "the most dangerous attack on the hyperlink yet".
PRCA director general Francis Ingham said: "Like previous attempts to hamstring the internet, this shows absolutely no understanding of how it works and we hope this proposal is promptly quashed.
"Shutting down the means of sharing content would punish innovation and goes some way to making the internet a less free place. There is no democracy on the internet if the European Commission pushes ahead with these plans, which make it possible for a publisher to pursue anyone who links to their content."
A spokeswoman for the European Commission’s Digital Single Market work said the body did not comment on leaked documents, and that the finalised version of the draft would be published on 9 December.
She also said the commission was keen to get responses to a consultation launched in September looking at the economic role of online platforms, the liability of intermediaries as regards illegal content and how to improve the free flow of data in the EU. The consultation closes on 30 December.
Last summer, the PRCA and media monitoring firm Meltwater won a case in the Court of Justice of the European Union over the Newspaper Licensing Agency, with the court accepting that browsing and viewing articles online does not require authorisation from the copyright holder.