THE END OF MEME CULTURE?
A PHOTOSHOOT TO 'LIGHT UP OUR CHRISTMAS'
IN SEPTEMBER THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT VOTED TO UPDATE COPYRIGHT LAWS TO GIVE MORE LEGAL RIGHTS TO PUBLISHERS, MUSICIANS AND FILMMAKERS OVER THE DISTRIBUTION OF THEIR CONTENT ONLINE.
Taking place in Strasbourg on September 12th, 438 people voted in favour of the bill, 226 against and 39 abstaining.
The legislation, European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, is made up of two articles: Article 11 and Article 13, affectionately known as “link tax” and “meme ban” to critics.
That’s all well and good, but what does this *really* mean for the future of the Internet?
Article 11, or the ‘link tax’, will only allow internet users to post links to news sites if the service they’re using, i.e. large social media platforms, has purchased a “linking license” from the news-source they’re linking to.
Critics claim this will lead to the censorship of which links can be shared and publicised, majorly impacting smaller fringe publishers who don’t hold deals with the major social media giants.
This is the part of the Direction on Copyright that has most people worried, including YouTube CEO, Susan Wojcicki.
In simple terms, Article 13 would mean that websites which host large amounts of user-generated content (such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook) would be responsible for taking down content if it infringes on copyright.
On paper, Article 13 shouldn’t affect those in the digital and social media marketing industry as long as they are licensed to use content they publish. However, the directive has caused people to fear for materials that don’t infringe on copyright law.
From written jokes to images, memes traditionally take something from one context and tweak it to fit another. With copyrighted material fundamental to their jokes, in the face of the Copyright Directive, memes can be classified as infringing copyright law.
Parody has historically been exempt from these kinds of laws, however it still remains unclear how Article 13 would be implemented.
It’s likely Internet services of all sizes will be forced to implement automatic filtering technology, however this technology would unlikely be able to detect parody from reproduction.
Who’s Backing It?
Publishers that distribute their content on platforms like Facebook and Google News want to receive payment to cover their content costs. The European Magazine Media Association, the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association, the European Publishers' Council and News Media Europe have all supported the directive.
As well as publishers, 165 filmmakers pressured Parliament to pass the changes, therefore increasing their rights to direct how streaming services like Netflix and Amazon distribute content and the copyright fees they pay out.
Who’s Against It?
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, are among the high-profile tech figures who have spoken out against the changes.
In some countries, Wikipedia shut down in protest over the changes, which they claimed would put Wikipedia “at risk of closing”. An announcement from Mozilla said that Internet services of all sizes will be “forced to implement automatic filtering technology, likely surprising anything that looks like it might be infringing technology”.
Despite the support from four European publishing trade bodies, not all publishers are in support. Publisher NewsNow, has been campaigning against the changes and gathered over 100 publisher signatures to its petition.
It’s unclear what will happen to the UK following Brexit, it is possible that the regulation may not affect the UK, however the UK has adopted other European-wide digital legislation in the past.
Whatever opinion you hold on the matter, it’s highly likely there will be teething issues if and when these laws are implemented. Questions will always arise when discussing the regulation and censorship of a system built on the free movement of information.
As a user of the Internet, it is important you understand how these new laws may potentially affect you.