Are Our Memes at Risk?

By Camille Jones

Article 13. You may have heard this ominous term floating around Twitter, Instagram, and any other meme source you frequent. But, what does it really mean? Are Europeans losing their right to meme? Why is everyone freaking out?

It turns out that finding unbiased information on Article 13, including the legal text itself, is extremely difficult. But from what I found, memes won’t be illegal. There’s a specific exception to Article 13 saying that “fair dealings,” like parody (the category under which memes would fall) will not be affected. Article 13, which is now actually Article 17 after being amended, is part of a larger set of laws called the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, designed by the European Union to control how copyrighted media is used online; the goal is to reduce the the disparity between the money made by content creators and the money made by platforms posting their content. This specific article was written to hold platforms accountable and require them to remove or filter any copyright material not used fairly. The system in place now requires creators to pay whatever licensing fees needed for the music they use, stock footage, etc. Article 13 would shift the responsibility from the creator to the platform, meaning Youtube will have to pay the licensing fees.

Not every platform will be affected. To be protected from this legislation, a platform must have been available for less than three years, have an annual turnover of less than €10 million, and have fewer than 5 million visitors per month. So, platforms like Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and more are definitely being regulated under this article. These platforms are expected to take “effective and proportionate measures” to “prevent the availability of specific [unlicensed] works identified by rightsholders”, act “expeditiously” to remove them, and demonstrate that “best efforts” have been made to prevent their future availability. This vague language leaves sites feeling confused about how they are expected to comply. One concern raised is that it could be extremely difficult to implement a suitable filtering system on a site like Youtube, where 576,000 hours of video are uploaded every single day.

The global effect of this directive is unclear, but many Americans online are upset. The hot topic has generated hashtags like #saveyourinternet and hugely popular petitions against the directive.

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