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Is It Over For The Age of Memes?


Here at CIPC we’re of the opinion that those who create, should be able to make a living from it. A fairly standard if not simplistic belief that for the most part, is the driving force behind most justifications of the global copyright regime. And the driving force behind controversial Article 13 is the idea that “people should be able to make a living from their creative ideas” which is nothing too revolutionary in the grand scheme in the history of copyright. However, recently proposals by EU Parliament have caused quite a stir not only in legal circles, but in memey ones. And who doesn’t love a good meme?

copyright free image

What is Article 13?

Article 13 is meant to be read together with recitals 38 and 39, and these proposals make a massive different to European Copyright as we know it! Following criticism from legal academics across the globe that the current copyright framework hasn’t evolved efficiently with recent technological advancements, they’ve attempted to overhaul and reinterpret the liability protections in the E-Commerce Directive, in a very confusing way, that… excludes a lot of the services they say its meant to protect? In essence, web hosting services could become liable for the actions of their users (it has been the opposite for some time now, also known as the safe harbour defence. So if this goes through, WordPress may be liable for what I post on this site… which is an interesting development).

Furthermore, these new provisions, if accepted would most likely result in a mandatory ‘upload filter’, and everyone is losing their minds about it. This is because of two main reasons- with all the broohaha surrounding the GDPR, the use of a filter with the ability to track, measure, observe and change the way one interacts with content on the web may have some implications to the privacy right of individuals online. The second issue is that the filter will undo the flexibility of copyright, perhaps overturning the exceptions to the regime such as parody.. and even quotation. Goodbye wikipedia learning, hello…. what exactly?


On one hand, the proposals could be seen as a huge relief to artists who rely on social networks to share their creativity and thus turn a profit; especially those within fan spheres of Twitter and Instagram. The filter allows individuals to be notified when their work (or variations) are uploaded, in an attempt to police and enforce licence agreements and copyright protections. Many creatives who have had their work ‘stolen’ or ‘reposted’ or shared in a manner to which they don’t approve may find these proposed changes promising, and a way to reduce the workload involved in protecting their art.

However, this is not entirely what would happen with the upload filter and reporting proposal. Copyright 4 Creativity campaigned against these proposals and argue that the proposals at their most literal could pose risks to Human Rights, especially the fundamental right to free expression.  And that is kind of a big deal, isn’t it?

They argue that the phrasing is purposefully vague, and looking at the recital ourselves, we agree. What is a ‘information society service provider‘ exactly? It is a very open and loose definition, and can cover almost anything on the internet, including hosting providers (in short, this could include ‘the cloud’, google services, and blog hosting sites such as wordpress.) But beyond that, it could affect sites such as twitter, tumblr, facebook, instagram and so on and cause a chilling effect on our sharing and remix culture. Which would be an unmitigated disaster for users, businesses, AND the creators the new proposals are attempting to protect. It can be argued that this could allow a monopoly for large companies to control how we use content, or what content we even see!

User Generated Content is the cornerstone of the internet age, millennial and digital natives have been communicating through UGC on a mass and global scale, changing culture and amassing new and forward communication techniques. If these proposals go through, there is no doubt at all that it would change the course of how we use the internet, what we can use the internet for, and the way we communicate for a long time to come. Most importantly, the face of the internet could change as we know it, with hosting providers no longer finding their services as viable for the liability they could accrue with the way the proposals seem to suggest. Will the EU kill the internet? We have to wait and see.


If you’re as against these proposals as we are, go to https://www.saveyourinternet.eu/ to contact your MEP now to campaign against these changes before the 20th June.


For further reading, we recommend EU Copyright Reform: Outside the Safe Harbours, Intermediary Liability Capsizes into Incoherence  




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