Culture 4 min read

How the new EU Article 13 Directive Will Kill Memes

The EU just passed a new copyright law called article 13, which could have drastic effects on the way that memes and satirical content are created and spread over the Internet.

Memers all over the globe are holding their heads in their hands at the passing of Article 13. | Image by symbiot | Shutterstock

Memers all over the globe are holding their heads in their hands at the passing of Article 13. | Image by symbiot | Shutterstock

EU parliament members have introduced a new copyright directive and approved two controversial articles, dubbed the “meme ban” and the “link tax”.

Nicolas Cage delivered some over-the-top performances in many of movies during his lengthy career, that the internet has immortalized in memes that it became a thing known as “Cage Rage”.

Because the Oscar-winner actor has recently expressed his frustration, in a calm way, with all the Cage Rage memes that he fears could hurt his latest movie, he may like the idea of regulations restricting the use of memes.

The EU’s New Copyright Directive

MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) approved the proposal of a new copyright directive after they have rejected the first draft back in July.

The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market is justified by the evolution of digital technologies that have “changed the way works and other protected subject-matter are created, produced, distributed and exploited”.

Previously, only copyright holders (content producers) were responsible for the enforcement of their copyrighted material.

Now, the new regulations forces websites, especially social media, to crack down on copyrighted material circulating on their platforms.

While the legislation is supposed to protect copyrighted material in the European Union, critics think legislators don’t understand how people engage with content in the digital age.

Some denounced the proposed directive as another blow to a free and open internet.

Article 11 in the Directive establishes a tax on hypertext links for the benefit of press publishers, and it has been dubbed the “link tax”, which many think it gives “powers for media giants to charge licensing fees for posting links”.

And there is another controversial article.

Read More: Proposed EU Copyright Law is Bound to Destroy the Internet

Article 13, aka the “Meme Ban”

Under the Article 13 of the new directive, platform service providers are required to “take measures to ensure the functioning of agreements concluded with rights-holders for the use of their works”.

Article 13 has been dubbed as the “meme ban” because tech platforms have now to start filtering and removing memes and GIFs.

YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms may do this via the installation of upload filters, or what the Art. 13 calls “the use of effective content recognition technologies”.

Some websites already use such filters, like YouTube’s Content ID which is supposed to compare files uploaded to a database provided by content owners, and flags any copyright-infringing video.

But some think article 13 really targets Google, and its platforms like YouTube, as one told InsideSources:

“Google is right to be worried because its business units are the directive’s prime targets. Article 13 targets YouTube because it has to pay fair royalties to artists. Its payout — $0.0006 per play — are about 10 percent of payouts of platforms such as Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora. YouTube has guaranteed traffic because Google Search prioritizes it. Artists have to compete against unlawful uploads of their own work if they refuse to play alone, so the only remedy they have is a change to the way copyright is enforced.”

Can’t Memes “Fairly Use” Copyrighted Material?

Perhaps memes aren’t doomed after all, and not only because this directive is just a proposal that has yet to pass as a law by the EU’s member states.

In the U.S., there’s a legal doctrine called “Fair Use” that permits the unauthorized “transformative” use of copyrighted material in some cases, like parody and pastiche.

Though not explicitly stated, memes are considered to be a Fair Use case as they transform original content, usually for a humorous or mocking effect.

EU laws do exempt parodies, memes, pastiche, and caricature from copyright infringement cases, but the new directive isn’t clear enough on that matter. Just couldn’t resist the urge to create an “original” Cage Rage meme…

Whether Article 13 will lead to the end of the age of memes and online satire is hard to say, but its effect on the free and open nature of the Internet is concerning.

Do you think these laws put the freedom of online creativity in jeopardy?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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    Kaftogr Ειδήσεις January 02 at 9:29 pm GMT

    The article 13 will be a positive thing in the combat against piracy online and copyright infringement. There are multiple (tens of thousands) websites that host pirated copies of original copyrighted work that eat out of the profits not of huge corporations but small indie companies and solo entrepreneurs.
    Article 13 will help in combating piracy and illegal downloads of content online.

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