What is Article 13/17? (How it Will Affect Us All)
The EU has passed their new copywrite laws, including the infamous Article 13 (now called Article 17) – a directive that would effectively restrict how copyrighted materials are used on social platforms. Some love it, hailing it a passing of money from giant tech firms to artists and content creators. Others – including Google, Facebook, and YouTube – hate it. One thing is for sure: this law will affect ALL of us.
Here’s everything you need to know about Article 13/17 (as well as Article 15) and the effects it will have on our lives on the web (AKA our real lives).
We wish it weren’t true
It isn’t law yet, but the EU has voted to pass of a controversial new directive that could force everyone from major tech giants to everyday match-goers to stop sharing content that is technically under copyright.
Fire up any of your favorite social media sites and you’ll see plenty of things: Idiots arguing about political issues they don’t understand, videos of people’s cats or kids, and status updates you don’t really care about. Another thing you’ll see plenty of? Memes, video clips, and links to content around the web.
It’s these things that the new “European Union Directive on Copyright in the Single Digital Market” aims to change. At least change the way owners of the copyrights are compensated. The overall aim is to “update copyright laws for the digital age”.
A Quick Summary of Article 17/13 and Article 15/11
The most controversial pieces of legislation are:
1) Article 13/17 – It’s not a “meme ban”:
The main source of hysteria is Article 13/17, which aims to stop copyrighted material from being shared across its platforms. Legislation already exists to prevent that. However, this would be an updated interpretation of old laws.
The main issue is that no one’s sure of how the EU will interpret this law (including the EU itself!). Will memes – which are nearly always made using copyrighted images – be considered part of this legislation?
We’ll comment on memes and gifs in a short bit.
2) Article 15 (previously Article 11) “the link tax”:
Article 15/11 aims to prevent news aggregator sites and platforms from sharing articles without properly compensating the publishers. For example, if Google News shares an article from around the web, they’d have to pay a certain “tax” to the original publisher.
The article would exempt private users (so your gun-toting neighbor wouldn’t pay for sharing a news article he didn’t fact check), but it starts to get dicey when that “private user” is actually an “own brand” with thousands or millions of followers. We’ll go into as much detail as we can further below.
What is the Meme Ban?
First off, don’t panic. Memes are not being made technically illegal. You can still make them without going to prison.
What could change is the way social media and other platforms would have to enforce laws regarding copyrighted material being shared on their platform.
The original wording (back when it simply article 13) was very ambiguous. It could have applied to memes and gifs, which definitely flirt with the boundaries of legal.
Everyone from the EU made it clear there will be NO ban on memes and gifs. Love them or hate them, they are absolutely here to stay.
What’s Going to Change?
Currently the responsibility of copywrite violations fall on the creator who used the content without permission. This is going to change.
The focus is shifting to companies that host and curate content like Facebook and Youtube. They will be responsible for not allowing copywritten material to be uploaded to their platforms.
The original versions of this article implied that this would come into effect the second the content is uploaded. However this has been updated to be a little more realistic towards the capabilities of the platform.
This means a site like Youtube with an insane volume of uploads each minute, will have the opportunity to work out a fair system to manage violations. It also mandates an appeals process that includes informing copywrite holders more information on how their content is used.
It also means that smaller, for profit sites, like those companies asking you who your favourite Disney character is, will be expected to audit everything before it goes public.
Why is This a Problem for so Many?
Since it’s not really possible to police this manually (without MASSIVE costs), platforms would logically adopt algorithms to filter content out. That could lead to the automated blocking of large swaths of content categories (video clips, images, etc.).
While the final version is better, each member state will be able to interpret these articles in their own way. Since a lot of the language is ambiguous, the overall impact of this directive is very uncertain.
The EU has recently added a clause basically stating that the burden on small businesses shall not be too insane (for lack of a better term) and steps shall be taken to avoid the automated blocking of content. However, it’s still unclear what all this means or how it’s going to be enforced.
One side claims that memes and other commonly shared pieces of content will be protected as parodies or protected under other exemptions. Others say that algorithms won’t be able to distinguish what is and what is not a parody, nor will content aggregators be able to manually check them all.
Youtube’s appeals process has received significant criticism from the creators on the site.
While things are clearer at this time, everyone is waiting on how the members states will actually enforce these laws. And how this will impact non EU nations.
What is the Link Tax?
Linking is the bedrock of the internet, and search engines like Google use links to determine what is an authoritative source on something and what is not.
Aggregator sites also use links to direct people to news, blogs, videos, or other pieces of content that they might find interesting or useful. Kind of like a town bulletin board of the internet.
This link tax would ensure that media outlets and content creators are given fair compensation whenever an aggregator site – like Google News – uses a snippet of their article.
The logic is that another outlet’s content is being used unfairly by a website to drive traffic and revenue. This tax would ensure fair remuneration.
Mere hyperlinks WILL NOT be taxed. Only when that link is used as a snippet. For example, Google News’ homepage:
The “Link Tax” won’t be imposed on every snippet. There is an unspecified amount of content that Article 15/11 allows before the tax will be imposed. This will also be left up to EU member states to implement.
Is This a Problem for You Too?
Perhaps, but most likely no. The article does allow an exemption for legitimate private, non-commercial use.
However, as you may very well know, the line between commercial and private is often blurred online.
Marketing affiliates, influencers, and millions more people use social media to promote products and businesses. What if you are a micro influencer with 5,000 followers that uses one outlet’s news story to promote your product. What if you are a local service provider that shares a local businesses’ content to prove the value of your service? Or, what if you are an influencer with a million followers that shares a news story? Is that private, non-commercial use?
We don’t know. Neither does the EU yet. No one is sure what’s going to fall under these rules or how they will be enforced.
Special Mention: Article 12a
Article 12a would prevent anyone who is not the official organizer of a sports match or copyright holder from sharing video and image content. That means viral sports gifs and endless replays of the blown call against the Saints in the championship game could be no more (the referees fully support article 12a).
Then again, GIFs are supposed to be safe. Again, nobody is sure how these laws will be enforced or how the EU member states will interpret the laws.
Guess we will have to wait and see.
Who Supports Article 13?
Article 13 is supported by major newspapers, media outlets, some artists, publishers, and music labels.
Basically, anyone who will gain profit and more protection of their media wants this passed. As can be expected.
Who is Against Article 13?
In general, Article 13 is opposed by major tech companies like Google, academics in support of an open internet (including Tim Berners Lee), populist parties, and American civil liberties groups.
Those who want the internet to remain an open network of sharing news and knowledge without the need to constantly police what is and what is not shared are in general support.
In the end, memes most likely aren’t being taken away from us. They could, but hopefully, they won’t be.
Articles 13/17 and 11/15 aim to make large content sites responsible for compensating content creators for things shared on their sites or to protect the rights of copyright holders if their media is shared.
You decide where you stand!
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