European Union Declares War on Memes

The European Union voted last Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2018 on a copyright law that may alter the legality of memes and the distribution of the internet’s treasured pastime.

Just like how “Great” Britain has changed for the worse, the EU voted on a series of new copyright laws that may drastically change how the internet is used for creating and sharing content. These laws were approved, but the exact language has not yet been finalized. The two monstrosities responsible for this uproar are Article 11 and Article 13, with the latter being the one most people are upset with.

Article 11’s power is to grant news publishers copyright over headlines and snippets of news, which would require collection platforms like Google News to pay companies a “link tax” to share articles. This basically means that whatever news companies post and then what is used by Google, Google must pay a certain amount to be defined later. The problem here is there are more collection sites out there besides Google and Bing. Most would not be able to support this tax and themselves alongside it, thus potentially killing off smaller businesses. However, how this so-called link tax will actually work is yet to be seen (or clarified for that matter).

Articles 11 and 13 were both held back from becoming a reality in July due to activists arguing that these “would end the internet.” Article 13 was created to give content creators their due payment for intellectual property and would potentially force giant companies to have a pre-uploading filter that would scan for copyrighted content before being allowed onto the site. Currently, companies review material that has been flagged for copyrighted content on a case-by-case basis. Tech companies have said this would be expensive to implement, not to mention dangerous, and would turn themselves into censors.

YouTube, for example, would be responsible for copyrighted property on their platform. They would need to have agreements with all rights holders: musicians, filmmakers and record companies. This would be a difficult task to undergo without an automated systems presence to help. Even an automated presence would not be enough because machines make mistakes and may even deny work that has no copyrighted content in the first place.

Another problem with an automated system is the potential for competitors, not the rightsholders, to abuse the system. The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani said, “The victims would not only be the (legally acting) users, but also the consumers … (whose) freedom of information would be hindered without that being required by the legitimate interests of the rightsholders.”

Protecting the rights of creators is important, but many believe there is a better way than what Article 13 would implement.

By this point, you are probably waiting for when the memes are going to show up. Any work that is uploaded would be monitored for copyright. While some countries within the EU already have exemptions for memes, not every country does. Since many memes are not originally made, but are made with a template and other pictures to go along with them, this law could prevent the creation and redistribution of memes with anything that is not solely the creator’s work.

With the relatively recent battle for net neutrality and now this, one can start to imagine how the internet we know and love will change, for better or worse, in the coming years. What we can do when these types of issues are being pushed is call our representatives and tell them you are against these sorts of laws and regulations being put into place.

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