EU’s Copyright Directive Could Kill Memes

As the dust settles from the General Data Protection Regulations act, lawmakers in the EU are set to meet tomorrow to vote on the Copyright Directive, a legal proposal critics say could lead to broad censorship. The Legal Committee of the EU Parliament will vote on whether the law will progress any further.

The Copyright Directive was designed to protect copyrights; it is meant to regulate illegal streaming and downloading of pirated content, namely movies and music. Online freedom activists, however, were quick to point out two practices in the directive that they saw as problematic.

Article 11

Article 11 seeks to force publishers into paying a so-called “link tax.” The link tax will be incurred anytime a publisher posts a link to copyrighted material – the publisher has to pay the content creator. This spells disaster for online bloggers and content creators in general. Just think of the repercussions that this article will have on the flow of information on the web. One journalist has likened the effect that the article might have to “carpet bombing”.

Article 13

As things stand, information sharing platforms and channels are not liable when it comes to the content that passes through them, instead, the law holds the persons sharing or receiving the data to be liable. But if the directive passes, according to article 13, those websites and platforms will be held responsible for any violation of copyright rules. The article seeks to implement AI technology to inspect the data being shared.

Opponents of the idea cite the fact that artificial intelligence probably isn’t good at differentiating between plagiarized work and work that falls under fair use. Sure, if there is an error it can be reported and will be corrected, but can small publishers keep up with lengthy and probably costly appeal processes. Can AI distinguish between a quote and plagiarism or when a photo is used as a meme?

YouTube is of particular interest here, as it represents the biggest video sharing platform. What’s more, YouTube has been known not to be very diligent when it comes to copyright infringement enforcement. The streaming service has, on quite a few occasions, taken down content merely based on takedown requests without actually inspecting the material themselves.

The directive will also force platforms like Facebook, Reddit and 4chan to block their users’ content before it gets online.

You should also know that both Tim Berners-Lee, credited with the creation of the worldwide web, and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales are among those that have signed a protest letter to the European Parliament in which they describe Article 13 as “a tool for the automated surveillance and control of its users”.

Visit and sign the petition to help defeat the proposal.