What are they and why should you care?

On Tuesday 26th March 2019, the European Parliament passed “The European Union Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market”, by 348 votes to 274, which contain the somewhat controversial Articles 11 and 13.

Effectively, the EU have moved to bring such legislation to “spread money more evenly across the internet”, basically attempting to be the Robin hood of laws, taking from the mighty rich and giving back to the poor. Sounds great, right? Apparently, it’s not all good…

Article 11 – The “Link Tax”

Article 11 is being referred to as “the link tax” and is the lesser of the two “evils” here. It boils down to content publishers being able to charge others to use their content. For example, a Journalist can charge a company like Google, should Google use some of their content. I know what you’re thinking, Sounds fair for the publisher.

However, some platforms use “Scraping”, which takes chunks of text in articles and contextualises to them, giving an output on their platform that you and I may prefer to see. You never go to the article on the publishers website which means the creator never gets the “bounty”; think any online news outlet that has pulled content from multiple other sources into “one pane of glass” type views, like Google News, MSN etc…These will feel the force of this one.

Article 13 – The “Meme Ban” (Now Article 17)

Could we be seeing the beginning of Meme censorship….NOT YET it seems….

This is the big one, the issue that has everyone talking. Don’t worry, memes aren’t being banned, but the fundamental of the article would have clamped down on this, but for an exemption of the satirical.

Article 17 (formerly 13 but renamed after amendments), is meant to crack down on copyright infringement, and it’s mandating greater power (and responsibility) to be placed on the tech platform providers, such as YouTube and Facebook.

Taken to its core, it is making these companies responsible for any copyrighted content that you upload. Again, it sounds absolutely fine, right? Apparently not!

Think about how these providers will assess each piece of content being uploaded, or how they can stop it…it is inevitable (some say) that it will result in upload filters. This has a wider bearing on the internet, not all of it bad per se, but ant-censorship movements have stepped up their resistance already.

Google says the reforms would produce legal uncertainties and hurt creative and digital economies in the EU. Record labels, who collect royalties from media use, claim it levels the playing field for those who create the content. So there are arguments to be had on both sides, as usual.

A good example of potentially impacted services would be game streaming platforms like Twitch. Are those who make money from the playing of games breaching copyright? Another ambiguous situation I’m afraid.

What Next?

Well, who knows? The whole directive would need to be sanctioned by the European council before it became law anyway, EU member states are normally granted 2 years to comply in any case.

Even if, (or rather when), this comes into effect, no one really knows how to police such legislation. Tech companies have invested millions into preventing copyright issues for years, and a case can be made that some big tech companies will come off better here. After all, these companies have spent millions developing tech to find such issues, they can sell this tech to the people who now need it, making a tidy sum in the process, perhaps.

The UK may or may not have to take this in its stride. Any sort of deal for Brexit would undoubtedly incorporate such directives mandated as law, while any other permutation of the situation could lead a multitude of ways. The likelihood is that this will have some sort of effect on the way that content is shared within the EU and potentially globally, though no one really knows how to enforce anything like this as yet.

How any Artificial Intelligence engine could work out what has been parodied and what constitutes copyright, however, is a mystery to most.

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