576 German Artists Want EU Copyright Directive Made Worse, With No Exceptions For Memes Or Mashups

from the promise?-what-promise? dept

When the EU Copyright Directive was being drawn up, one of the main battlegrounds concerned memes. The fear was that the upload filters brought in by the new law would not be able to distinguish between legal use of copyright material for things like memes, quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche, and illegal infringements. Supporters of the Directive insisted that memes and such-like would be allowed, and that it was simply scaremongering to suggest otherwise. When the Directive was passed, BBC News even ran a story with the headline “Memes exempt as EU backs controversial copyright law“. The MEP Mary Honeyball is quoted as saying: “There’s no problem with memes at all. This directive was never intended to stop memes and mashups.”

But just as supporters insisted that upload filters would not be obligatory — and then afterwards changed their story, admitting they were the only way to implement the new law — so people who insisted that memes and parodies would still be allowed are now demanding that they should be banned. Copyright companies were the first to make that shift, and now a group of 576 German artists have sent a letter to the German government and politicians complaining about the proposed implementation of the Copyright Directive in their country (original in German). In particular, they are appalled by:

the introduction of all kinds of exceptions, some of which are so outrageously contrary to European law, that we can only shake our heads: up to 20 seconds of music, remixes, mash-ups, samples etc. — everything should be freely usable, without a license.

In other words, precisely the things that supporters of the EU Copyright Directive promised absolutely would be freely usable, without a license, when experts warned that the new legislation could threaten these legal activities. Now these artists are demanding that the German government ignore all those assurances that user rights would indeed be preserved.

However, as Heise Online reports, not all German artists are so selfish in their desire to take away what few rights ordinary members of the public have in the use of copyright material for memes, remixes and the like. A group of 48 top German artists using social media to great effect, and who together have around 88 million followers on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Twitch and TikTok, take a very different view of the German government’s proposed implementation (original in German):

Article 3 paragraph 6 describes the public reproduction of a tiny excerpt of works protected by copyright and parts of works by the user of a service provider, for non-commercial purposes or where insignificant income is involved. In these circumstances, thanks to Article 3 Paragraph 6 it would be legal to use up to 20 seconds of a film, up to 20 seconds of a sound track, up to 1,000 characters of text and a picture of up to 250 kilobytes without having to purchase a license, since the rightsholders are compensated for the usage via the service provider. We content creators expressly support this rule.

This so-called “legalization of memes” shows that the politics of [the German government] is close to how reality operates. What defines our culture is always evolving, also through digitization. Memes have been part of our culture for many years and are finally recognized by this ministerial draft.

The statement from the 48 social media artists also includes a neat encapsulation of why their position is so different from the 576 artists whining about memes and mashups:

we would like to point out that content creators are simultaneously users and owners of copyrights, i.e. [they are both] creatives and companies in the cultural industry.

The 576 artists who wish to deny an Internet user the right to draw on copyright material for memes, parodies, mashups etc. forget that they too draw constantly on the works of others as they create — sometimes explicitly, sometimes more subtly. To cast themselves as some kind of creative priesthood that should be granted special privileges not available to everyone else is not just unfair, but insulting and short-sighted.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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Comments on “576 German Artists Want EU Copyright Directive Made Worse, With No Exceptions For Memes Or Mashups”

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32 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

"the introduction of all kinds of exceptions, some of which are so outrageously contrary to European law, that we can only shake our heads: up to 20 seconds of music"

What’s outrageous is that people think that using 20 seconds of music requires a fee, in an environment where such things can be captured accidentally in the background of someone documenting their life without any profit motive.

"remixes, mash-ups, samples etc."

I wonder, if we look into the history of the artists in question, how many of them originally honed their crafts by doing exactly these things while they were trying to find their own artistic voice? Show me a musician who didn’t start by trying to copy someone else’s music, an artist who didn’t try copying their favourite pieces, a filmmaker who didn’t try reshooting their favourite scenes, an editor who didn’t learn by re-editing their favourite movies, etc., and I’ll probably show you a liar.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s not about profit, it’s about control.

These copyright maximalists fear losing control over their works in any shape or form. It’s the reason why we get the occasional wolf erotica posting here. They fear their vision becoming irrelevant in the global mind share and will do anything to squash competition. They want the power to create to be limited to their views and their views only. The profits are just a nice bonus.

If it was about the money, the first thing they would be doing would be dismantling the legal power of the legacy publishers, but they don’t. Instead they keep advocating for "forever minus 1 picosecond" copyright terms because they want to inherit and wield that power. If it was about money, they’d be encouraging everyone to reuse and remix as much as possible to increase their potential audience and the longevity of their relevance to the public, but they don’t. Instead they sacrifice their profits at the alter of their one true vision.

There is not a human alive that has truly created something unique entirely of their own creation. The human brain is a copying device, and these idiots would gladly turn the entire human race into automatons if it meant their vision was "safe."

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

I look forward to German artists screaming as they are hit with billions of dollars in damages for stealing the feel & vibe of works that came before.

Culture is meant to be built upon, not to provide an endless stream of income for your childrens childrens childrens 3 cousins twice removed.

If you think culture is alive & well I direct you to them closing down a CoVid testing location so they could shoot scenes for a GASP gender swapped remake of ‘She’s All That’.

Tell me again how all of these insane copyright demands aren’t killing off creativity & I’ll show you the huge amount of ‘remastered’ rerererrereleaseses of music nearing what should have been the end of their limited time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Memes and remixing are part of popular culture , its hard to review a film without showing 20 seconds clips at least,
These artists are ip holders who want to break the Web or control it ,
The Web is the greatest medium for communication and artistic expression since the printing press and its used by
Upcoming artists to find an audience and make art
And to get funding on patreon or other websites
Maybe someone can make a formula only the most fascist extreme governments would even try to ban memes
or remixing
Memes and tik toks are used by young people to communicate and comment on life

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

The printing press was a groundbreaking invention, just as the internet is in modern times. For a while, everything was fine and well: paper was printed upon, and information of all kinds disseminated. Then came an Anne, who didn’t like some of the information. She hated it so much and was an utter control freak, she created a hideous law to eradicate the information and allow only rubberstamped information to be published.

To hell with Anne and her likes! When I drive, through the night / with the howling winds at my back / riding on teutonic terror / I will, give, em’ the axe!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Learn some history sometime. Soon after the printing press was invented, the church and ruling families decided to control information by issuing printer with permission to print a book. No permission and it was not printed.

Anne came late to the game, and and is only the nominal name of the copyright law. The source of that law was the stationers society, (think MPA/RIAA for printers here), who used the political spin of authors rights, to re-establish control over printing, after the old censorship laws had been repealed, removing the permission to print system which allowed them to control printing.

Anne’s law was not about censorship, and indeed she had given royal assent to the bill that removed the censorship laws, and after several years later to the bill that created modern copyright.

sumgai (profile) says:

Re: Only 576?

Actually, it’s kind of amazing that Axel Springer Publishing House managed to contact, and bamboozle, this many people. I’d’ve liked to’ve been a fly on the wall, listening to them promising the "little guy" artists the whole moon, if only they sign on to carry this "important message" about copyright to the EU Parliment.

Not to mention also to the mainstream media, can’t forget that little factoid.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'The only fair use is paid use!'

Ah gotta love hypocritical parasites, perfectly fine taking and building upon what came before but if someone even thinks about doing the same with what they made suddenly the cries of ‘Theft!’ are ringing through the air.

Don’t like the idea that someone might use small portions of your stuff without paying you? Keep it to yourself and find another job, because I guarantee that the world will be much better off if a couple of hundred ‘artists’ aren’t creating than if millions of people aren’t.

DariuszB says:

Stupid "artists"

Most of them have their music created based on something that already exists. People that have no idea about law should not lobby with big corpos about things they dont understand. Availability is what prevents piracy, not restrictions. The more restrictions the more piracy will skyrocket. People will either not buy or not use/listen to your ex.so called "orginal" music. They will find a way to pirate it outside of EU grasp or will just straight up ignore you.
What current Twitch DMCA thing created is that people literally MUTE music in games. Making your music not visible at all to anybody that would like it 😀 Being such uneducated artist like them must suck.

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