The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, also known as EU Copyright Directive, was finally approved on April 15 2019. With 348 votes in favor out of a total of 618 voters, this controversial law was long overdue since the European Union hadn't updated its copyright laws since 2001. This directive was drafted to regulate copyright for the modern internet and updates the pan-European copyright law with new requirements for sites offering user-generated content or linking to third-party content.
What Is the Meme Law?
Known by the public and media alike as ‘The Meme Law’, the main goal of this directive is to adjust and balance the clash between creators and tech platforms. The former want copyright protection for their content, while the latter claim that copyright laws should be liberalized to allow online content to be easily shared.
However, this directive has been strongly opposed due to two of its provisions, Article 11 and Article 13, which were ultimately designated as Article 15 and Article 17 in the final document. The first was dubbed as “link tax”, which targets news aggregators and requires them to obtain licenses when they reproduce more than “single words or very short extracts” of other news stories. Article 17 states that online content sharing service providers must get permission from rightsholders when their users publish copyrighted content.
However, this is not an easy task as it means that either the sharing services obtain licenses to the material themselves or they will have to invest in automatic filters to prevent their users from uploading content that is protected under copyright law. Since obtaining licenses for a never-ending amount of copyrighted content would be an impossible task for any company to accomplish, it is predictable that providers will prefer to invest in artificial intelligence filters and online moderation to comply with this legislation. However, if content sharing services only use filters to moderate content, how will they distinguish between content that should be licensed from content that doesn't need licensing?
What Does It Mean for EU Citizens?
Though the directive explains that online content sharing service providers are liable for the content that is available on their platforms, users will be impacted by this new legislation as their content will be subject to extreme scrutiny from service providers. The legislation has some safeguarding provisions, however: non-profit education sites or private cloud platforms are exceptions to the rule, and so is content that is used for quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody, or pastiche. Additionally, content will also be analyzed by state members by considering if they are acting on a commercial basis or if the activity does not generate significant revenue.
The fact that automatic filters can’t differentiate between content that is subject to copyright and content that isn’t also means that some users will probably see some of their content unjustly removed. Additionally, copyrighted content may be blocked for some countries. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid geo restriction and having content filtered. As the law only applies to countries in the EU, content outside of that region won’t be subjected to moderation beyond the currently enforced standards. A VPN service will help users circumvent automatic filter tools and have their music, videos, gifs, and even memes published and be visible without problem by connecting them to a location outside the EU.
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