This week the European Union voted in Articles 11 and 13, its new copyright directive some have dubbed the “war on memes”. It had already rejected one version of the laws in July, following an opposition campaign led by Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and others. At various stages the decision has been portrayed as a fight for the future of the Internet (hi there, net neutrality).
After a hundred amendments the law was passed this Thursday (Sept 12). It must still go to a final vote next January – which is very unlikely to be rejected – but essentially 11 and 13 are here to stay, and, proponents and opponents say, will change the way the web works forever.
Article 11 offers a route to payment for content creators whose work has been linked to by Google and other web platforms. Article 13 requires social media sites like Facebook and YouTube to stop users sharing unlicensed material.
Critics say this will spell the end of the meme, and affect smaller entities harder than major players, as they will be required to sweep material in the same way as multibillion-dollar corporations. Others worry that “copyright trolls” will tirelessly monitor the web for activity that could infringe on the new laws.
MEPs (Members of the European Parliament have hit back at those claims, pointing to scaremongering statements by big tech firms eager to keep a grip on online material. “This is a good sign for the creative industries in Europe,” said German MEP Axel Voss shortly after the verdict.
Whomever benefits, or suffers, from these articles, confusion is set to rule the debate, as Europe’s online denizens struggle to keep up with Brussels and it’s legislative zeal.