To meme or not to meme?

By Eric Sousa, Staff Writer

On September 12, the European Parliament voted in favor of a controversial legislative piece called the Copyright Directive. The goal for this legislature is to instill copyright laws that will match the modern internet, which were said to be outdated. This directive was initially denied in August due to criticisms towards two specific articles, Articles 11 and 13.

After updating the directive and amending the affronting articles, the legislature was finally approved. 438 voted in favor and 226 were against. Across the world, the passing of this legislature raised eyebrows; the effects of this decision will not be settled and clear for years to come.

Article 11 is comprised of legislature that would theoretically give more power to publishers and news sites by instilling a paid tax when Google and other internet giants link their product.

This would mean that when snippets of online news stories were used by sources other than the original publisher, a publishing license would be required before legal use of the information. This would affect fact-checking services such as Snope, auto-link-sharing sites such as Facebook, and news aggregators such as Google News. Online linking taxation is unprecedented.

Article 13, commonly referred to as the “upload filter,” make sites, like Facebook, liable for copyright infringement if user-uploaded content uses content without licensure. It puts the responsibility on the sites to manage, scan, and remove unlicensed content. The controversy for this Copyright Directive is due to the interpretation that user-generated content, such as memes and song remixes, are technically using copyrighted materials without proper licensure.

While Article 11 has alarmed many, most of critical focus has been pointed towards Article 13. Large sites, such as YouTube, have their reservations about the motion.
Due to the vast user-produced content on their site, this would instill a heavy barrier for users to continue creating the content they have been known for unimpeded.
Obtaining licensure would be a trial for numerous users responsible for creating a diverse array of material. The criticisms focus on the burden Article 13 would place on the users to work through the red tape as well as the hosting sites.

Another criticism for Article 13 is from the stance of smaller, independent content-creating sites. The vetting process to uphold these new copyright infringement laws would not be a cheap fix. However, for the sites to function without breaking a slew laws, they would be required to. This is intimidating to small platforms.

Interpretation of these laws is up for current debate, as the vague wording often allows in passed legislature. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, came out strongly against this directive, with a letter to the president titled, “Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive Threatens the internet.” His interpretation is Article 13 would, “mandate internet platforms to embed an automated infrastructure for monitoring and censorship deep into their networks.” He is one of several staunch critics that feels online liberties are threatened.

Supporters of Article 13 include major players in the music industry. The new copyright law would protect the rights of artists and their productions. One of the more prolific figures supporting Article 13 is Sir Paul McCartney, who avidly supports the copyright mandate. McCartney states, “the proposed Copyright Directive and its Article 13 would address the value gap and help assure a sustainable future for the music ecosystem and its creators, fans, and digital music services alike…. You hold in your hands the future of music here in Europe.” McCartney is of the belief this would force sites such as YouTube to fairly compensate artists for their creation.

While the Copyright Directive has only been passed for a handful of days, the world’s speculation on the implications continues to grow and complicate.

Only time will tell what the positive impacts, or ramifications, this passed directive will have. Whatever the eventual impact is, one thing is certain; a precedent that effects the functionality of the internet has been just set.

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