If the law is passed, Facebook, Reddit and many other platforms will be responsible for the first time that users violate copyright.
On June 20, the European Parliament’s committee on legal issues voted for amendments to the law on copyright – now the document has been submitted for consideration by the entire parliament. According to the idea of the authors, the sites will be obliged to monitor all user content from the EU in order to prevent copyright infringement.
Many Western media outlets shared concerns about the introduction of preliminary censorship of Internet culture products – including memes, hyphas, satire and even criticism. And although the final decision on the bill has not yet been made, it has already become a cause for concern.
Scientists, researchers and Internet figures wrote an appeal to the head of the European Parliament criticizing the bill. Among the signatories – the founder of “Wikipedia” Jimmy Wales and the creator of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee. “Today [limit] memes, and tomorrow rhetoric, which is considered hateful,” – warned the organization for the protection of civil rights Electronic Frontier Foundation. “I think Article 13 is now the biggest threat to the Internet that we know about,” saidReagan MacDonald, the head of the European branch of Mozilla.
New law on copyright is heavily criticized
The EU decided to reform the law on copyright because the current law has been in effect since 2001 and with the development of the Internet objectively obsolete. In fact, that legislation needs to be updated, almost no one doubts – neither businessmen, nor politicians, nor ordinary citizens of the European Union. But the reform was in the end controversial, and the most discussed in it is articles 11 and 13.
Article 11 (“tax on communication”)
The amendment requires a preliminary “license to reprint” fragments of news content published on the Internet.
How and why this should work: the law will affect the preview of articles from third-party sites that are automatically generated in social networks when sharing. The EU plans to introduce a fixed fee for Internet platforms (for example, Google, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest) for displaying such content. Thus, the EU authorities are planning to increase revenue for content authors, primarily media publishers.
Why is the amendment criticized: the measure in its current form will make it difficult for most aggregators, media monitoring services and small publishers. A similar law has already been adopted in Spain, where it is believed that it “had a clear negative impact on access to information” and did not really bring additional income to journalists. Another concern – against the backdrop of the abundance of links without thumbs much more noticeable in social networks will be fake and propaganda materials.
Article 13 (“Content Filtering”)
The amendment implies that all Internet companies will be obligated to moderate content in search of copyright infringement. This resembles the existing practice of YouTube, where already the content is filtered using special algorithms.
How and why this should work: the main task of the law is to prevent the appearance of pirated music and video on the Internet. Moderators will have to establish a new infrastructure to prevent the publication of content with copyright infringement. For example, if the copyright holder of a certain photo will proactively apply to the management of the site-aggregator portfolio of photographers with a request to prevent the publication of this image, the owners of the resource will be obliged to do so.
Why is the amendment criticized: it contradicts the laws of the EU on electronic commerce and the ECHR judgments . Security experts believe that the new infrastructure will give governments and corporations the opportunity to establish ubiquitous surveillance on the Internet. The wording in the bill is undefined (” any copyrighted material” – from pictures to computer code, software and written words ), so it’s not clear what the rules will apply to. Human rights defenders fear, that such an initiative would limit the freedom of expression, as well as harm independent authors and start-ups. Such filters will have to be implemented even for public projects like Wikipedia, even if they only host licensed content.
Memes in the European Union have not yet been banned
So far, the EU has banned anything. The legislative committee of 25 people voted for the version of the law with all the contradictory amendments. The next stage is the consideration at the plenary session of the parliament of 751 people. The initiative will be discussed before July 4 or after returning from the summer break – at least at the end of September.
The media believe that the censorship will primarily come from works of Internet culture. This is not surprising , because memes are viruses, endlessly copied, rethought, and become objects of references – at some point the issue of copyright always goes to the background.
If the law is adopted in its present form, the restrictions will affect one of the most distinctive and habitual forms of communication on the Internet. We can assume that the first restrictions in this case will affect memes with frames from TV shows, sports broadcasts, clips, serials and films.