Press Release Copyright Reform

Public Knowledge Joins 5 Consumer Groups Urging Congress To Amend JCPA or Risk Losing Internet Links

June 17, 2021 , ,

Today, Public Knowledge joined 5 other consumer advocacy groups in a letter urging Congress to amend the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) to clarify that the bill does not expand copyright to article links and that consumers will not have to pay to link to or share articles, including headlines and snippets. Public Knowledge contends that the JCPA as currently drafted is likely to prevent consumers from linking to or sharing news articles on digital platforms and websites, which would limit the availability of credible information online — a clear threat to our democracy.

The following is an excerpt from the letter:

“[W]e are concerned that [the JCPA] could be interpreted by courts to implicitly change the scope of copyright, expanding the exclusive rights that news publications enjoy in their material beyond what any copyright owner has ever enjoyed. To the extent that this creates a new substantive right to demand that material not be linked to, this is unwise; to the extent that it interferes with fair use rights, particularly of the rights of users of platforms, it is unconstitutional and violative of our international obligations.

“The ability of one website to connect (“link”) to other websites, without needing to negotiate to do so, is a foundational component of modern internet infrastructure. Linking is not, and has never been, an act within the scope of copyright. It is not within the statutory or common-law ambit of copyright law, as merely linking to a piece of external content is not a reproduction, display, performance, or distribution of that content. As such, rightsholders do not — and should not — have the ability under copyright law to prevent third parties from linking to their publicly available content. (Notably, the vast majority of rightsholders do not want such a right, and those that do already have technical methods which allow them to do so.)

“We are asking that Congress create a savings clause that explains that copyright protections are not being expanded to include linking, or fair use snippets of linked material. Without such a savings clause, the JCPA may make it more costly and difficult to access information. Even with such a savings clause, the better solution to solving the journalism crisis is to directly help the most harmed newsrooms, rather than allowing our largest media conglomerates to become a cartel.”

You may view the letter for more information. You may also view our recent blog post, “Can the Journalism Competition & Preservation Act Really Preserve Local Journalism? Public Knowledge Says “Probably Not,” to learn how the JCPA jeopardizes internet users.