Today, Authors Alliance joined Public Knowledge and four other civil society groups to urge Congress to amend the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (“JCPA”) to clarify that the bill does not expand copyright protection to article links and that authors and other internet users will not have to pay to link to articles or for the use of headlines and other snippets that fall within fair use.
The JCPA (H.R.1735 in the House and S.673 in the Senate) proposes to create a four-year “safe harbor” from antitrust law, allowing print, broadcast, and digital news companies to band together to negotiate compensation terms for their news stories with the largest online platforms. While the goal of the bill—to preserve a strong, diverse, and independent press—is commendable, the bill’s framework relies on a fundamental mischaracterization of U.S. copyright law. As currently drafted, there is a risk that the JCPA could be interpreted by courts to implicitly expand the scope of copyright.
As our letter explains, linking is outside of the scope of copyright in the U.S., as merely linking to external content does not implicate any of a copyright owner’s exclusive rights. Furthermore, the use of brief snippets of content—such as headlines, images, or short excerpts—that often accompany links are minimal quotations of copyrighted material have been consistently found to be fair uses under copyright law, and protection for these types of uses is mandated by the Berne Convention. These fair uses cannot be banned or substantially curtailed without running afoul of Supreme Court jurisprudence, the First Amendment, and multilateral international obligations.
To address these issues, our letter asks Congress to create a savings clause that makes it clear that copyright protections are not being expanded to include linking, or fair uses of snippets from the linked material. The full text of our letter is available here.