EU Copyright Proposal That Would Destroy Internet Memes Being Protested With Internet Memes
from the meme-while-you-still-can dept
The EU is no stranger to bad laws, but its desire to “protect” copyright holders from the Wild West Internet™ is one of its worst. A proposed change — known as Article 13 — would force social media platforms and other service providers to preemptively block copyrighted content during uploads unless permission has been specifically granted by the rightsholder.
Here’s what Mike Masnick had to say about the impossibilities Article 13 would demand:
How would a site like Instagram create a working filter? Could it catch direct 100% copies? Sure, probably. But what if you post a photo to Instagram of someone standing in a room that has a copyright-covered photograph or painting on the wall? Does that need to be blocked? What about a platform like Github where tons of code is posted? Is Github responsible for managing every bit of copyright-covered code and making sure no one copies any of it? What about sites that aren’t directly about the content, but which involve copyright-covered content, such as Tinder. Many of the photos of people on Tinder are covered by copyright, often held by a photographer, rather than the uploader. Will Tinder need to put in place a filter that blocks all of those uploads? Who will that be helping exactly? How about a blog like ours? Are we going to be responsible to make sure no one posts a copyright-covered quote in the comments? How are we to design and build a database of all copyright-covered content to block such uploads (and won’t such a database potentially create an even larger copyright question in the first place)? What about a site like Airbnb? What if a photo of a home on Airbnb includes copyright-covered content in the background? Kickstarter? Patreon? I’m not sure how either service (which, we should remind you, both help artists get paid) can really function if this becomes law. Would they need a filter to block creators from uploading their own works?
There’s a movement underway to destroy this proposal before it gets implemented. One of the internet’s greatest collective creations/forms of communication (ymmv) is memes. Memes are almost always composed of copyrighted material, but no one would seriously argue they somehow diminish the market for the underlying content. Some would disingenuously argue this, and those are the sort of people who are pushing impossible filters to block third-party uploads.
If it’s memes that are (inadvertently) targeted — along with the freewheeling nature of internet communications — then it’s memes that will be pressed into service to fight the war against Article 13. Beckett Mufson has compiled some of the best ones for Vice. The meme warriors started with a set of memes that cleared Article 13’s copyright filters.
This was followed by a misguided, but hilarious, attempt to get the EU to destroy itself by placing its flag front-and-center when crafting memes.
Of course, the flag isn’t capable of being targeted for preemptive takedown since it’s in the Creative Commons, but the underlying message — that the proposal is ridiculous and harmful — still comes through.
But the best of the batch is this one, which speaks to a great deal of our coverage of the EU and its bizarre treatment of copyright protection, free speech, and other ancillary issues. When a terrible, extremely harmful law is proposed by the EU, it’s just another day at work for the governing body.
Only the most antagonistic of rightsholders would view memes as a destructive force pushing creators into poverty. But the EU’s proposal takes exactly this hard line: it wants platforms to treat every bit of copyrighted material being uploaded as infringing by default. This won’t just bankrupt smaller tech companies and make millions of users miserable. It will also do serious damage to internet communications in general, pushing platforms towards restricting users’ interactions with the service, either by limiting their ability to post content or by suspending/deleting accounts for alleged Article 13 violations. The law is stupid and dangerous. Far too often, so is the EU.