EU’s proposed “meme killer” copyright directive got an approval

Posted on June 25, 2018

Online content including video game Lets Plays, streaming, and internet memes are being threatened by a newly approved EU copyright proposal.

It’s safe to say that the internet is such an important part of our lives. It handles our social lives, our romantic encounters, our financial status, and so much more. But most importantly, it helps us reach the pinnacle of human civilisation, via collaboration and creation of new methods of interfacing with each other in this audio visual landscape. I speak of the glorious masterpieces known as “memes”.

But the European Union looks fit to destroy this sacred art.

In the new age of the internet, copyright holders can be in a bit of a jam. Musicians see their music being used for free in YouTube videos, artists see their works with their authorship removed. Copyright laws have not kept pace with the changing technology. Now the EU, hot off revamping consumer data privacy, have their sights set on bringing the laws up to speed. On June 20, the draft for the European copyright directive got an approval vote. Now there are still multiple votes and approvals it will have to go through before it can be rendered into law. First of all, a vote with the 751 member EU Parliament, coming in either July or September. But the prospect itself is scary, owing to some rather unsavoury articles.

Article 13: “The Upload Filter”

Article 13 is the most controversial by far, owing to it trying to tackle all forms of copyright. It’s been described as an “upload ban”. Under this law, online companies would have to screen any and all content uploaded for copyright infringing material. The only exception, being people that have a licensing right. So, jokes aside, unless you purchase a license, posting a meme could be blocked. Got a fantastic distracted boyfriend line? Well not anymore, that right there is a stock image, and you stole it you dirty, dirty pirate. The problem being that the true power of the internet is collaboration and remixing. However, these laws wish to completely steamroll such a culture.

Oh, and let’s just take a step back and remember how hilariously impractical the idea is. I mean I still chuckle at the fact that last year Nintendo uploaded a Pokémon GO video, and got a copyright strike from itself. But on a serious note, having to set up a copyright filter could easily make new startups in the EU prohibitively expensive.

Fair Use also may be thrown out of the equation. Anyone uploading or streaming video game content may be caught out by this filter. While we definitely hope it will be contained in the EU, and not spread,it’s certainly a possibility. Let’s Plays are already a copyright grey area, but with the vagueness of language on display, games criticism may fall under the ban hammer as well.

Article 11: “The Link Tax”

Less controversial but still gaining ire is Article 11. This addition is aimed at sites that show parts of articles to users. The idea seemingly is to make readers go to their site to see the article proper, restricting sites from showing snippets unless they obtain a licence to do so. I mean, this is based on a few assumptions, since even something as simple as what can be shown is not clear. It could be anything from no snippets down to no link sharing full stop at the moment. Basically it sucks for those who use news aggregators and will probably kill news aggregators themselves. As for the bigger companies, it’ll be an unnecessary tax, but one that’ll be likely paid. As for the rest, well you could be flying blind when you click on an article link.

The Resistance

Of course, the blowback has been as severe as it always is and always should be. A letter signed by around 70 of the biggest internet luminaries has been posted online, expressing their concern with this directive, and can be viewed here. There are also anti-article 13 information sites, and as of typing a petition has received over 464,000 signatures of its 500,000 goal.

This is not the first battle to keep the internet free and awesome and covered in glorious memes. We have not won all those battles, though Ajit Pai will get his one day. But once more, we must take up arms. We must come together, with our dank ammunition, to ward off those who would wreak havoc upon our international, worldwide little hamlet. I look forward to seeing you all in the trenches. And remember We Must Never Let Our Memes Be Dreams!